When the Nashville Predators introduced new head coach Peter Laviolette to fans at 102.5 The Game’s Music City Sports Fest on Sunday, June 1, he was met with both Southern hospitality and Preds Pride.
Cheers, applause and a full audience welcomed Laviolette as he got onstage and sat down to talk with the Predators’ Pete Weber and 102.5 The Game’s Willy Daunic.
“I can't tell you how many times since I’ve taken this job that people have reached out and said, ‘You’re going to one of the best cities in the country,’” Laviolette said. “The people are great, the fans are great, and it’s a great place to raise a family, so we’re excited.”
Laviolette made it clear that family is important to him, commenting that his biggest off the ice influence is his wife, Kristen. When the coaching gets tough, she is there for him 100 percent.
“My wife sets me straight quickly and gives me her opinion,” Laviolette said. “It matters to me because she understands hockey and what we have to do in this career that we’ve chosen. The strength she gives me from a personal standpoint is very important to me and probably some-thing I value more than anybody else.”
After an audience member requested to meet the rest of the Laviolette family during the ques-tion and answer period, the family joined Laviolette on stage. His wife, three children and moth-er-in-law took turns introducing each other and even talked to fans afterward.
New assistant coach Kevin McCarthy and his wife Rhonda were also on hand to meet the fans that attended the event. McCarthy has worked with Laviolette for several years, serving on his staff as an assistant coach with both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He [Laviolette] has a vision for what he wants as a team and a passion for getting the best out of players,” McCarthy said. “If you look at the teams he’s coached in the past, players have ca-reer years and that’s not by accident.”
Laviolette already has familiarity with some of the people he will work with in Nashville. He has worked with Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile in the past, most recently when he worked as an assistant coach for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team. As head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2014 IIHF World Championship last month, Lavio-lette had the opportunity to work with the Predators own Seth Jones and Craig Smith, and he had high praise for both young players.
“Seth Jones, who was voted best defenseman in the tournament, deserved every goal that came his way because he was outstanding,” Laviolette said. “Craig Smith also did an awesome job for us. He plays the game with a tenacious attack, and constantly works for the puck and when he gets it he wants to be an effective offensive player.”
As the question and answer time continued, one young fan asked Laviolette a question that is on a lot of people’s minds: Will he be able to bring a Stanley Cup to Nashville?
“I would feel good if this team, these players, this staff, this organization, fan base and the city of Nashville built something that was so special that at the end of the day you look back at it and say, that was one of the greatest things I have ever done,” Laviolette said. “It’s not just the coach, the assistant coach, or one player, but an entire group that becomes a family; anything is attainable and anything can be accomplished.”
The standing room only crowd of energized fans makes it clear how excited the community is for the upcoming regular season. With the foundation of the “something special” Laviolette dreams of already visibly started, the Predators are certainly well on their way to becoming a force to be reckoned with when the first puck drops in the fall.