Plenty has changed since David Poile first stepped into his Bridgestone Arena office almost 20 years ago, set to begin his new role as the General Manager of the Nashville Predators. He’s seen a lot over that time; changes in the organization and the city, with each subsequent season bringing its own wave of memories.
But what played out in the 2015-16 campaign, particularly as the club entered into the postseason for the ninth time, is something Poile won’t soon forget.
“I’ve been here for all 18 years, and this was a tremendous ride,” Poile said during Wednesday’s closing press conference. “I’ve never seen so much passion for a team or a city. I’ve been in hockey a long time, but those home games were unbelievable in terms of the noise level, the fan participation, the on-ice performance of the players… That certainly is in the memory bank, and it certainly bodes well for the future of this franchise.”
After completing his second season behind the bench in Nashville, Head Coach Peter Laviolette also took time to reflect on the atmosphere in the city during the playoff run.
“It was truly a special feeling coming to our building, especially as the playoffs grew and moved on,” Laviolette said. “The fans and what they brought into the arena on a nightly basis, it was building to something that, to be honest, I’ve never experienced anything like it before. From that something that was building, you could actually feel it and see it, that energy was in the building. We’re so appreciative of that from our fans, because I’ve been in other buildings, and it’s just not that way. We’re thankful for that and the support that they’ve given us all year.”
The disappointment of coming one win short of advancing to the Western Conference Final was apparent from Poile and Laviolette, but the step forward this past season gives the GM and head coach plenty of reason to be optimistic. Training camp begins in just over four months, and with it will come another chance to achieve the ultimate goal, which seems to become more and more attainable each season.
It’s an outlook that helps to ease the pain that will eventually give way to the promise of trying it all again in the fall.
“There’s a lot of positives to take with our group,” Laviolette said. “It’s an exciting time to think about us moving forward as a group and attacking next year when it comes. We’ll take a break now, and the players will go, they’ll train, they’ll come back hungry and they’ll be ready to play.”
“I’ve been through three ownerships, and the team was going to Hamilton, and we weren’t ever going to make it and all these things… Our owners have stabilized the franchise, we’ve been able to keep our players and not lose our players, and we are definitely heading in the right direction,” Poile said. “I love this franchise.”
It’s a stark contrast to some of the darker days Poile has seen. Those days now continue to get smaller and smaller in the rearview.
“I always remember when I came here, we used to say Nashville: non-traditional hockey market,” Poile said. “Well, I’m not saying that anymore. This is a hockey city, and we have great fans.”