Olli Jokinen said his children were looking forward to seeing some elephants on their trip to the Nashville Zoo. With that wish as the predominate criteria, they must have been more than satisfied with their visit.
Nashville Predators Day at the zoo took place on Sunday afternoon, with Jokinen and fellow newcomer Mike Ribeiro attending the event. Two of the newest Preds took time to sign autographs for fans, and afterward, the Jokinen and Ribeiro families got up close to some giraffes and elephants, participating in feeding time with both mammals.
For Jokinen, it was good to get acclimated with some fellow citizens of Smashville.
“It’s nice to meet some fans and it’s a pretty good fan base here,” Jokinen said. “Playing against Nashville over the years, it’s always been a fun place to come and play. The building is full and the fans are pretty loud so it’s nice to be a part of that now, being the home team and part of Nashville.”
While the zoo animals may have been first on the agenda, hockey is never far behind. Both Ribeiro and Jokinen have been in Nashville for three to four weeks, skating with their new teammates and settling in to the Music City.
“It’s nice to be here earlier,” Ribeiro said. “You have a chance to meet the guys so when training camp comes, I think it’ll be easier for me. I’ll be a little bit more comfortable in the room now that I met some of the guys. It’ll be easier to just fit in.”
“You kind of know most of the guys, you’ve played against them over the years, but obviously now being teammates, you get to know them a little bit better,” Jokinen said. “It’s a good time to get to know each other right now before the camp. Obviously we want to grow as a team every day and the earlier we can start knowing each other, the better it’s going to be.”
Jokinen and Ribeiro are both veterans, having skated in the NHL 16 and 14 seasons, respectively, so they know what to look for heading into training camp.
“I think there’s a positive excitement now around the team with the new coaching staff,” Jokinen said. “Not just for the new players, but I think for every player on the team who’s been here a long time, it’s a fresh start for everyone. You’re at a point that everybody wants to impress the new coaching staff and everybody wants to play lots, so it’s a clean slate for everyone. It should be a fun training camp coming up.”
“(There are) a lot of guys from different teams now and all of us want to prove (ourselves),” Ribeiro said. “When you’re on a new team you want to do the right thing. We have a lot of skill up front too, so I’m just anxious to start the season right now.”
And while there may have been some competitive spirit shown between a pair of giraffes over lettuce leaves, Jokinen expects more of the same battle level to materialize on the ice soon enough.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition between the guys (during training camp) and that’s what you need,” Jokinen said. “Winning teams, you have that inner competition inside of your team. It’s a very exciting time right now.”