The Nashville Predators came together for the Eighth GnashVegas Casino Night and Auction presented by King Jewelers on Thursday night, trying their hands at casino games, mingling with fans and raising more than $200,000 for the Preds Foundation in the process.
Trading the ice for a casino floor complete with poker stations, craps tables, blackjack and roulette and serving a variety of food and drinks from local vendors, Bridgestone Arena became the place to be in Nashville.
Around the floor, a silent auction benefiting the Foundation included items like signed jerseys, personalized player gift baskets, Preds memorabilia and more.
The Preds new team puppy, Lord Banner of Smashville - aka Smash -- even made an appearance.
Before stepping into the photo booth for pictures with fans, Preds Captain Roman Josi touched on the importance of the team getting involved and supporting the Foundation at events like GnashVegas.
"The whole Predators organization and the players love getting involved in the community, and the Foundation has done such a good job of helping people," Josi said. "We take a lot of pride in being in the community and helping people out."
Senior Director of Community Relations Rebecca King spoke to the real impact events like GnashVegas and the Predators Foundation have in the greater Nashville area.
"We have a fantastic platform being a part of the Nashville Predators and the NHL to raise money for our local community, and we understand the importance of supporting all these organizations, so we create a lot of events throughout the year to raise significant funds that funnel through us and benefit hundreds of organizations," King said. "We're fortunate to have all of these players built into the organization that make our events so popular and make our fans want to come out and support them."
Part of what makes GnashVegas special is the opportunity fans get to mingle and spend time with their favorite players, King said.
"Fans get to come and just hang out with the guys. We don't have a formal program for the guys so they're gambling, they're eating, they're mixing and mingling - it's just a unique way to see the players off the ice and out and about as citizens of Smashville."
Preds forward Colton Sissons, who enjoyed a few games of blackjack during the night, was happy to return to GnashVegas for another year.
"We've always had good ties with the community and all of our fans here in Nashville. This event is always great every year, it's a lot of great people and it's just hanging out, saying hi and taking a few pictures and it's all for a great cause," Sissons said. "Whatever impact we can have positively, we'll gladly do it."
On top of his back-to-back shootout goals against Minnesota earlier in the week, Preds forward Ryan Johansen also garnered respect from his teammates as the likely best casino games player on the team.
"I think me and Cody McLeod actually had some success back in the day playing blackjack, so I'd probably go with him being the best," Johansen said. "But the worst - Josi. He doesn't even know how to count to 10, so he'd be struggling with the numbers."
Johansen also enjoyed getting the chance to meet fans one on one, and talked about how the team constantly strives to set a positive example.
"The biggest thing is that we're role models in the community and for the younger generation coming up. For us it's a no-brainer to take advantage of this opportunity and set the standard and be an example," Johansen said. "It's a very satisfying feeling that we can contribute a lot to the events that we do throughout the year."
To learn more about the Preds Foundation and the many organizations it supports, click here.