Professional hockey players are accustomed to signing autographs and visiting with fans, but taking part in the feeding of anteaters and giraffes usually doesn’t occur within the same afternoon. Unless it’s Preds Zoo Day.
Defenseman Barret Jackman and forward Austin Watson took part in Nashville Predators Day at the Nashville Zoo on Sunday afternoon, and not only got to meet with the Predators faithful, but also a number of other mammals as well.
After snapping photos with fans, Jackman, along with his wife and two young children, son Cayden and daughter Makena, and Watson and his wife were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo, which included interactions and feeding sessions with anteaters, leopards, okapis and giraffes.
“It was incredible, really,” Watson said of his zoo experience. “We have training camp coming up here soon, so not only the players, but the fans are excited for the season to get going. It was good to sign some autographs and hang out with some animals. I mean, I’ve never been this close to a giraffe.”
“The giraffes, you look at these guys here and they’re amazing animals,” Jackman said. “The male is over 17 feet tall, and he’s taking lettuce out of our hands, so it’s pretty neat to see these creatures in captivity and being taken care of so well by the zoo staff.”
One of the first events to help bring in the new 2015-16 season, Predators Zoo Day is a chance for fans to get an autograph and a picture, play games and see some animals, but also for a newcomer like Jackman, it’s an opportunity to venture out into the community he’ll call home over the next two seasons for the first time.
“Over my career, I’ve really enjoyed just getting out and seeing the people who really make it enjoyable for the players,” Jackman said. “You go to games and you play, but just to have the opportunity to put a smile on a kid’s face and give back to your community is special and that’s something that we did here today.”
As for the giraffes, they weren’t so much looking for a signature as they were hoping for a snack. While they received the latter from the Jackman family, one inevitable request might have to be squashed quickly.
“My daughter, every time she meets a new animal, she wants one,” Jackman said. “I’m sure she’s going to be asking for a giraffe when we get home.”