“I sell hotdogs and watch hockey games for a living.”
Laughter fills Schermerhorn Symphony Center. That’s not the whole story. Even just a quick glance at her title of Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Financial Officer shows Michelle Kennedy does quite a bit more for the Nashville Predators than she’s initially letting on.
Honored as one of 10 Women in Business selected by Nashville Lifestyles Magazine on Tuesday, Kennedy recalled how a decision to step out from a prominent role led her to the position she considers “extraordinarily fortunate” to now hold. Approximately a decade ago, Kennedy decided to forgo the career path promised by her accounting position at Vanderbilt University and enter the school’s law program. She had professional sports circled as her next step, no matter who was telling her she couldn’t make it.
“I remember when I told my parents and my close friends what I was doing, they thought I was joking. And people thought I had lost my mind to have left the job that I had, which was on a tremendous career path,” Kennedy said. “Then they thought I was even crazier when they asked, ‘What are you going to do with this when you finish?’ And I would say, ‘Well, I’m going to work for a professional sports organization, and I’m going to use what I call my professional double disability - being an accountant and a lawyer - I’m going to use that every day.’”
After she graduated from Vanderbilt’s Law School, even Kennedy was surprised at how fast she was wielding her dual talents in professional sports, starting with the Predators in 2008. Equally as speedy was the Preds rise under her leadership as one of the franchise’s executives.
ESPN’s Ultimate Rankings in 2015 placed Nashville 27th among the 122 pro sports franchises in North America and seventh among NHL teams. One of the main factors for such a positive review? One of the best stadium experiences for fans in the country - maybe Kennedy isn’t joking about her attention to hotdog sales after all.
Still, there’s more work to be done. Kennedy says the Predators will not have accomplished their ultimate goal until, “we drive down Broadway with the Stanley Cup and celebrate that win.” But in the meantime, the native of Hawesville, Kentucky, is touched the most, not by her position as one of the city’s most-powerful female executives, but instead by the difference the Preds make throughout the community every day.
“When I go out with our [Nashville Predators] Foundation, and we build a playground and I see the kids running toward it at the end of the day, your heart just melts,” Kennedy said. “Nothing that I can do behind a desk, relative to the law or accounting or [Human Resources], is as fulfilling as things like that. I get the pleasure of that experience repeatedly, because we have such an active Foundation that works extensively in the community. I always feel like I made the right choice, because working with that organization is so fulfilling in ways you don’t even think of with respect to how we embrace this community and love to give back.”