Days like Veteran’s Day make it a little easier to pause and show gratitude for the sacrifice made by current and former members of the military.
But remembering those who have served when the calendar isn’t turned to Nov. 11, or to May 30 for Memorial Day, is equally as important. For the Nashville Predators, that truth has come to action on a daily basis through their numerous donations and in-game salutes for members of the military, veterans and first-responders.
Through ticket and monetary donations, discounted ticket prices and the organization’s now traditional in-game salutes, the Predators staff, ownership group and players are honored to increase the number of times they get to say, “thank you.”
“There are people thousands of miles away protecting our nation so that we can live a better life. I feel the least I can do is get them tickets to a hockey game to show my appreciation,” Preds forward Eric Nystrom said. “What they’re going through is something that a normal person can’t even imagine, and we’re so fortunate to have these men and women serving our country.”
In charge of several of the Preds outreach programs to the military, Ticket Representative AJ Rockwell says the moments that stick with him come in the second period of each Predators game when there’s a guaranteed standing ovation.
“I still remember our Opening Night of the 2014-15 season, the honored gentleman had 90-plus surgeries and around 85 percent of his body had been burned. It was extremely moving and touching to see him honored at the game,” Rockwell said. “Talk about some tears flowing down everyone’s faces after hearing the adversity he’d faced, and there he is still standing.”
Rockwell says Preds season-ticket holders have moved well beyond providing applause during each salute to also donating their tickets to military families.
When a display of gratitude comes from the heart, it’s incredible to see the affect it can have.
“I get emails daily from season-ticket holders or fans saying how much they appreciate the military salute we do each game, whether it was for a male, female, Vietnam vet, World War II vet, Afghanistan or Iraq veteran,” Rockwell said. “I think it touches everyone differently because we’re all connected in some way to someone that is currently serving or has in the past, so there’s that personal connection. They can imagine what it’s like to experience what they’re going through.”
On Thursday, Nov. 12, the Predators intend to expand their normal celebration of military families and veterans with an entire night of programming dedicated to the showing their appreciation for active and veteran military members. Preds President Sean Henry says moments like what will occur on Thursday are made even more special because of what the organization does on a game-by-game basis, however.
“Having the opportunity to celebrate our veterans at Preds games is something pretty special, especially with what we’re planning for Thursday’s game,” Henry said. “For example, we do the Ford Military Salute every game, and it’s one of the best things we do as an organization. We all owe them our gratitude and our thanks, and it’s fun to be able to share that in front of 17,000 of their biggest supporters.”
Predators Military Outreach programs:
Remington Heroes of the Game is presented each contest on the ice and highlights two active or retired military members. The pregame presentation takes place during the national anthem with the participants’ names, ranks and branches announced. Through this program, the members of the military also receive two complimentary tickets.
Last season, thousands of additional tickets were also purchased by active military through the Remington Hometown Hero Nights program which offers tickets at a special rate for each game.
Remington Heroes Section:
Remington Outdoor Company purchases 50 season tickets to every regular season home game. These tickets are distributed to local military branches and first responders, including Ft. Campbell, Arnold AFB, Redstone Arsenal, TN National Guard, Gold Star Families, Metro PD, Nashville Fire and DCSO. Each night’s group is saluted and spotlighted via an in-game announcement.
Ford Military Salute:
The Ford Military Salute recognizes a current or former military service member during the second period of each game with a 60-second highlight video shown on the Megatron. The recipient receives four complimentary tickets to the game. The program started during the 2012-13 season.
VetTix/Defending the Blue Line/Operation Stand Down:
Through the Give & Go ticket program, tickets are distributed to nonprofit organizations in the Middle Tennessee area. During the 2014-15 season, several thousand tickets were donated to veterans and active military through local organizations, including Defending the Blueline and VetTix.
During the 2014-15 season, two collection nights were held at Bridgestone Arena by the Screaming Eagle Honor Flight to raise money for Honor Flights for veterans to see their memorials in Washington D.C. Through the funds generated from the drives, the organization was able to plan three honor flights.
The Predators recently held another collection for the program with funds being collected prior to Nashville’s 7-5 win over Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Player Ticket Program for the Military:
Over the past several seasons, Preds players have donated money to purchase tickets for the military. The program includes postgame meet and greets, a player banner in the rafters and program t-shirts for attendees.
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront provides emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Predators General Manager David Poile and his wife, Elizabeth, have donated $100 for every Preds win to Operation Homefront. Over the past five seasons, the donations have totaled more than $20,000.
Camouflage Jerseys in Warm-ups:
On Dec. 21, prior to their contest with the Montreal Canadiens, the Predators will don military-themed sweaters. The players’ jerseys will later be auctioned off through the Nashville Predators Foundation’s online and in-game auction with the funds going to a military-based charity.