Matt Irwin can finally become a fan of the goal song.
The 28-year-old defenseman, who inked a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators last week as free agency opened up on July 1, fancies music from country superstar Tim McGraw, among others.
It’s McGraw’s voice that emanates through Bridgestone Arena when the home team scores, and Irwin, who admittedly didn’t have the best time in Nashville as a visitor, is looking forward to being on the other side.
“I don’t think my career was very good in Nashville,” Irwin laughed. “I know that goal song very well.”
The country music fan is looking forward to a new opportunity with the Predators after spending last season with the Boston Bruins organization. Prior to that, Irwin skated 153 games with the San Jose Sharks from 2012-15, totaling 50 points from the backend.
A well-rounded defenseman, Irwin is excited for the chance to join a Nashville d-corps which is encouraged to join the rush and contribute on the offensive side of the scoresheet whenever possible.
“My job as a defenseman is to take care of my own end, move the puck up to the forwards and jump up in the rush when the opportunity presents itself,” Irwin said. “I think that’s a big part of my game. Getting shots through from the point is one of my strengths, and just getting it to the net, whether it’s a wrist shot or slap shot or whatever it is, to create opportunities for the forwards.”
Never drafted, Irwin played collegiately at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before turning pro at the end of the 2009-10 NCAA season. Since then, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, has prided himself on becoming a complete defenseman while continuing to advance through the ranks to the NHL.
“I’m going to an organization that showed some interest, and they play the right way, in my opinion,” Irwin said. “They play fast, they’re competitive, they had a great run this year and they’re a fairly young team as well. It’s very exciting for me.”
That up-tempo system built around a speed game is one Irwin believes is the way to go nowadays in the sport. Combine that with his abilities on the backend and he figures to help provide defensive depth for a club that has become known for its proficiency with the position.
“I think it’s really important in this day in age, with the way the game is trending, to have defensemen who can skate, move the puck up, jump in at the right time offensively and not become a liability defensively,” Irwin said. “You watch the playoffs, and the teams that were successful, they play fast. The less time you spend in your zone, the better off you’re going to be, so the key is just getting the puck, moving it up to the forwards and hopefully create some odd-man rushes.”
Irwin was watching in the postseason, including games played in Nashville. Being a past visitor, he knows Bridgestone Arena can be a raucous environment, but he didn’t have to be sitting on the opposing team’s bench to recognize the energy in the building. And hear the goal song.
“Watching the games on TV, you can tell that it’s a rambunctious crowd,” Irwin said. “Sometimes when you watch on TV, the announcers say that it’s loud, but during these playoffs, I said to myself, ‘Wow, that’s a loud crowd right now,’ and it's exciting as a player. That’s who you want to play in front of, and it’s a pretty exciting opportunity.”