It was inevitable Brent Peterson and I would become friends.
When he wasn't behind the bench as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, there was a good chance he was finding a way to squeeze in a round of golf. When I'm not behind the anchor desk at WKRN here in Nashville, it's likely I'm doing the same.
When we were introduced way back in 1998, when the Preds were new in town, we became fast friends thanks to our shared love of the game of golf - and also hockey. I know what you're thinking: Even golf isn't usually enough to make hockey coaches friends with media members. But sometimes it becomes personal, and this became personal.
In 2009, Brent started the Peterson Foundation for Parkinson's, as he began his battle with Parkinson's Disease, and that included a golf tournament. Naturally, I was going to be there. He and the Predators have always been so gracious in supporting my own tournament over the years, and I wanted nothing more than to be there for my friend.
That's the way it's always been in Nashville with this franchise. It's just different in the best way possible.
When it comes to outreach in the community, this team has done it since Day One. It's not that other folks don't do it, but this has been a priority for the Preds and it continues to be. You name the organization, and it seems the Nashville Predators professional hockey team does something with that organization through players coming out to visit kids in the hospital, through donating hockey sticks or buying tables at events; this team wants to be part of the community, and from Day One, when they didn't have as many fans as they wanted in the seats, they made that a priority. That's always stuck with me.
In particular, Petey's golf tournament is always fun because there are always a bunch of Preds players out there, and you get to meet these guys off the ice and talk to them as people, not professional athletes. You find out their nuances, what they're into besides hockey and their personal lives, and that doesn't happen with all of these professional athletes.
The team really has opened up, and the organization's administration has been very open as far as access. They've always said, "If we can do something, we will do it. If we can take part in this event, we'll do it." We've partnered with them for different kinds of charitable events, promotional events, and the partnership and the way the front office brings in the community, I think, is envious of a lot of the other teams here in town.
It's been amazing to see what this team has done over the past two decades - not only in the community, but on the ice as well. I grew up playing hockey on ponds in the Midwest, and being a fan since Day One, I always knew that if they could get people in the building, this would be a successful venture.
But I'm not sure anyone could have imagined this.
The 2017 Stanley Cup Final in Nashville was unlike anything I had ever seen. Game 6, I had tickets and I was broadcasting as well, and I was on Broadway and Fifth Avenue right in front of the arena looking down Broadway. I have never seen that many people in this city. I know that the recent NFL Draft had a huge amount of people, and it was close, but I swear there were more people that Sunday night on Broadway, and they were all in Gold. I have never seen anything like that.
As the team becomes more successful, which I think it will, this organization understands that the more successful we are, the more successful we want this community to be. I don't see anything but them doing more, not less.
My friendship with Brent, which began 20 years ago, has only strengthened over that time, just as the bond between the Preds and the city of Nashville has done the same.
That's a special thing, and it won't be changing anytime soon.