Way back in 1998, those in the front office of the Nashville Predators were certain of a couple of things.
For one, they had the monumental task of introducing the game of hockey into a market that was largely foreign to the sport. There was a belief that the speed and excitement of the spectacle would eventually sell itself, but it would need some help to start.
Sure, fans would see the Preds in uniform during games flying around a frozen sheet of ice, but how do you market those individuals and let people get to know them without their helmets and padding obscuring the person behind the player?
Those in charge knew they needed to get the guys out into the community - and not just to sign autographs or snap photos - but to help give back, to show they wanted to be a part of Nashville just as much as the citizens who called it home.
During that inaugural season, the Nashville Predators Foundation was formed as a way for the franchise to make a tangible impact in the city they called home. The Foundation raised $170,000 in that first year - quite a start for an organization finding its way in the landscape.
And that was only the beginning.
If you were on Old Hickory Lake this past Saturday, you would have seen more than 80 boats filled with fishermen, including Predators forward Austin Watson, at the Third Annual Nashville Predators Fishing Tournament proudly sponsored by '47, Bass Pro Shops, Guy Harvey & Mossy Oak and benefiting the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund presented by Twice Daily.
By the time the weigh-ins were completed, $30,000 had been raised for the 365 Fund.
Perhaps you made your way over to Ford Ice Center Antioch later that afternoon for the Filip Forsberg Hockey Clinic presented by Delta Dental of Tennessee and benefiting Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee. You would have seen 100 youth hockey players on the ice with one of Nashville's biggest stars in Forsberg, followed by the winger snapping photos and signing autographs with every single participant.
Again, another $25,000 raised.
There was the ninth annual First Tennessee Petey's Preds Party on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, an evening filled with dinner, drinks, stand-up comedy, silent and live auctions and more than 1,000 people on the arena floor to celebrate and raise money for the Peterson Foundation for Parkinson's and the Preds Foundation.
The party continued on Monday when more than 250 golfers teed off at the Vanderbilt Legends Club for the ninth annual First Tennessee Brent Peterson Golf Classic, the grand finale of sorts on what has become the second annual Weekend of Giving for the Predators Foundation.
Last year at this time, more than a quarter of a million dollars was raised in just these three days alone. This time around? The $300,000 mark was eclipsed.
Yes, what the Foundation once raised over the course of an entire season is now shattered in a single weekend.
Last season, the Foundation distributed another record amount in grants alone - and the grand total distributed across all events by the time the 2018-19 season was complete?
That would be $2 million.
It's taken time, of course, to reach these heights, but it doesn't happen without the generosity of Nashvillians and Predators fans everywhere. The dollar amounts have grown over the years, but that spirit has always been there.
In the beginning, the goal was to make a difference in the life of one child, one person, one family at a time. That's still happening today, but thanks to you, on a much larger scale.
Back in 1998, the Predators were making connections with parents and children who didn't know a thing about hockey. Today? The people embracing the Foundation and the Predators logo don't know Nashville without hockey.
And just as they did in that first season, the players who don the Predators crest on the front of their jerseys care just as much for their community and the people who call it home.
You may not see them greeting hospital patients or underprivileged youths outside of their locker room after every home game, but they do. It may go undocumented when Pekka Rinne stops by Monroe Carrel Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt just to say hi and brighten someone's day, but he does.
It's just part of what it means to be a Nashville Predator - be a great player on the ice, but to be an even better person off of it.
That code of conduct only makes sense, considering that being an upstanding citizen is essentially what it means to be a Nashvillian too.