Leaving a dreary Nashville for sunny Fort Lauderdale on Southwest Airlines Wednesday afternoon was exciting enough for the group of passengers gathered at Gate C4 inside Nashville International Airport.
And then Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm showed up.
Already having completed a slew of jobs to help prepare that airplane for its journey to South Florida, the duo arrived to assist with the boarding process, and Johansen took the mic.
"A1 through 15, let's make it rain," the Predators centerman announced to laughter in the gate area, plenty of passengers already holding his bobblehead they had been gifted as part of the visit to BNA.
Video: Ekholm, Johansen try working at Southwest for a day
Johansen and Ekholm learned the ropes and helped out with just about everything thanks to assistance to the employees from Southwest, the official airline of the Preds.
The afternoon began with a trip right down to the tarmac where the pair sported safety vests and earplugs before Ekholm directed an airplane right into the gate, much to the delight of the pilots, who gave thumbs up to the new representative.
Once parked, it was time to open up the belly of the aircraft to retrieve the luggage, and Johansen - who stands 6-foot-3 - made his way into the tight space and began to send bags down the conveyor belt as a waiting Ekholm yelled, "Hurry!"
They then made their way onto the plane where Johansen used the intercom to say hello to the passengers, before asking if there were any Blackhawks fans on the plane, just in case someone needed to be removed.
Finally, it was time for the highlight of the day, up to the gate to provide some entertainment - much to the surprise of all those in possession of boarding passes.
"My colleague here doesn't speak any English, so don't ask him any questions," Johansen jokingly announced. "Just walk right past him."
The two helped to scan the passes one by one, the occasional passenger sporting a Preds hat and wishing the pair luck the rest of the way.
"At Southwest, it's all about personality, it's all about having fun and I think that shows with these two guys," Southwest Spokesperson Dan Landson said. "They're all about having fun, and we have a job to do, we've got people to move. But at the end of the day, we want to do it with some smile and an extra bit of heart."
Johansen and Ekholm certainly fulfilled those requirements on an entertaining afternoon that was a vast difference from the norm of being on the ice. The Preds spend plenty of time on planes throughout the course of an 82-game schedule, but the behind-the-scenes access gave them a better understanding of what's involved when jetting across the continent.
"We fly all the time, and sometimes it's not the most fun thing, but to see all these guys, who make it happen, and to make us be able to get to a city and out of the city pretty quickly, and painless, you get the respect up for them, for sure," Ekholm said.
"I've never seen the side of the workers beneath the plane like that and just their jobs and what they do, so that was cool to see," Johansen said. "Flying is not always the most exciting thing, so maybe we were able to put a few more smiles on some faces as they're boarding."
Johansen and Ekholm agreed that working as a gate agent with a microphone in hand would win out as the preferred task if they had to choose a job, and after seeing them work the crowd, it's easy to understand why.
While it was back to work on the ice for the pair on Thursday, they did so with a newfound appreciation for what it takes to get planes in and out of their destinations - and just like those at Southwest, they did so with a little bit of love.
"Since this is the first year being the Predators official airline, there's no greater way to celebrate than bringing them out to the experience our arena," Landson said. "It's always a great event to see them interact with our fans, but also, it's really cool to see them learn different positions and everything that it takes to make an airline run on time. Of course, with hockey timing is everything, and it's exactly the same with the airline industry."