It took a lunch with Roman Josi, encouragement from Carrie Underwood and a realization that some business just can't go unfinished for Mike Fisher to say aloud what he had accepted only a few weeks before: I'm coming back.
Gathered before cameras, recorders and laptops in the Bridgestone Arena Media Lounge on Wednesday morning, Fisher made it official. The decision he made in August to walk away from the game of hockey will be put temporarily on hold as he and the Nashville Predators give it one more shot to claim two more wins than they did last season - a playoff run that saw them fall in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"In retirement, I have enjoyed it… and everyone misses the game, there's no question, you miss lots of different parts of it," Fisher said. "The closer I got toward having some of these conversations, the more you start thinking about the opportunity and how much fun it would be… That was never the plan all along, for me to come back, but the more I thought and prayed about it and went through the whole emotions of kind of revisiting retiring again, the more I knew it was something I wanted to do."
Fisher said the support of his family, General Manager David Poile, Head Coach Peter Laviolette and Josi is what slowly turned his no into a yes as the months went by from his initial retirement on Aug. 3. Seemingly to guard against the notion that he chose to join the Predators in the back half of their regular season to avoid the grind of 82 games, Fisher reiterated several times he never thought he'd be one of those guys that pulls a 180 on his decision to quit the game.
"I asked my son and he's like, 'no, no,' and I don't even know if he knew what he was saying no to," Fisher laughed in regard to asking his family if he should lace up the skates again. "But to be honest, [my wife] Carrie [Underwood] was, she kept asking me almost every day what I was going to do and she wanted me to do it. She's usually right, and people that I just have discussions with, their eyes light up."
Video: Fisher takes to the ice as he returns from retirement
On the other side of the coin, Poile has said more than once that Fisher can be a member of the Predators as long as he wants, so there was no hesitation from the Preds' perspective on if they wanted No. 12 back.
Poile, Laviolette and Josi thought it was important in December to reach out one more time to Fisher and make their intentions clear: if the leadership, passion and on-ice talent of Mike Fisher could ever be added back to the Predators' roster, they would explore every option to make it happen.
"We talked in December as a [Hockey Operations] group and just shooting around ideas of what we need moving forward, as you always do, and of course Mike's name got brought up," Poile explained. "We reached out to Mike and there were a few conversations, and at the end of the day, Roman Josi, our captain, met with Mike and had a conversation and I'm sure it was a combination of a lot of things that got Mike over the hump to make this decision, but what's really important here is he did make the decision. He does want to come back and he has the fire to come back, the will to come back.
"Everything I've ever known about Mike, from the time that he's been here, is he sets a challenge he thinks he can do, he will get it done. He's got some work to do on and off the ice. We have no timetable for his return, we're going to be patient, we're going to see where he's ready to go and we're just going to manage this between Lavi and me and Mike and all this is really for getting ready for the playoffs… this is a huge day. This is really neat."
Video: Mike Fisher announces he will return to the Preds
With a plan in place, likely the biggest hurdle has been cleared for the reunion of Fisher and the Predators. Next on the to-do list includes the 17-year NHL veteran returning to the form he was at last season. Plenty of skating sessions and practices lie ahead, with the ultimate goal being that Fisher intends to sign a contract prior to the Feb. 26 NHL Trade Deadline so that he will be eligible to play for the Preds in the remainder of the regular season and hopefully all the way to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
"I believe this team is built to win," Fisher said. "We have a very good chance, so that is part of the reason why I want to come back and compete and be a part of it... I believe that this year can be our year and that's what I want to be a part of and have some fun."