On Saturday, the Nashville Predators celebrated a recent partnership with the Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association, which continues the growth of the game in East Tennessee.
At the Cool Sports Home of the Icearium, the Preds debuted the "Knoxville Predators" brand, which will expand up the rapid growth the city's single rink has seen over the past year. The gathering of more than 400 people featured the KAHA presenting Preds Senior Vice President of Tickets, Premium Sales and Youth Hockey Nat Harden, Ford Ice Center General Manager Danny Butler and several youth participants with Knoxville Predators jerseys and a look ahead at the promising opportunities on the horizon for the region.
Since the Preds introduced their learn-to-play program, Little Preds: Learn to Play, to Knoxville in 2015, the Icearium has seen their youth hockey numbers rise to 200 players, a nearly 15 percent increase in attendance, and they're aiming for even more. KAHA President Scott Ingmand wants the program to reach 600 skaters by the year 2020 and for an additional ice sheet to be installed.
Butler and the Preds were thrilled to try and help the KAHA reach their lofty goal, since they've seen success doing the very same thing. The Preds twin-rink facility in Antioch, Tennessee, has nearly maxed out its available ice time during the three year since first opening its doors.
"Saturday was an awesome time to celebrate the growth of youth hockey in the area and to look ahead to a bright future," Butler said. "The KAHA has really embraced what we do with youth hockey and we're adding more Little Preds sessions to help with their growth.
"With Little Preds, we have a Predators alumni, Cody Hodgson, who oversees the entire program and travels around to West and East Tennessee, Indiana and Alabama. He helps put on learn-to-play sessions in those different markets. Kids get outfitted from head to toe with hockey equipment that's all branded Nashville Predators… Our goal is the same for what it is for so many programs, and that's just to get a kid to hold a hockey stick and onto the ice. We know if they do that, they'll be hooked for life."
About Nashville Predators Youth Hockey:
The Nashville Predators are dedicated to enhancing awareness and creating opportunities for youth hockey in Middle Tennessee and Ford Ice Center, in Antioch, Tennessee. Through partnerships with local rinks and youth hockey associations, the Preds assist with fundraising, hockey education and additional ice time to promote growth of the sport at the grassroots level. Additionally, the Predators regularly provide clinics for coaches and players, ice time at Bridgestone Arena, funding for uniforms and learn-to-play programs. For more information on the Preds youth hockey initiatives, click here.
To learn more about the Little Preds: Learn to Play Program, click here.