A few years ago when the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena, led by President and CEO Sean Henry, set a goal of becoming the top sports and entertainment venue in the United States with a Stanley Cup champion hockey team as the centerpiece, critics scoffed.
While Henry knows the organization has yet to reach those ultimate goals, they're continuing to achieve levels many never thought possible.
So two years ago, when Henry joined forces with the YWCA and MEND Nashville with the goal of eliminating domestic violence against women and girls to make Nashville the safest city for women in the country, it was met with more remarks of the "good luck with that" variety.
On Wednesday, the Predators partnership with MEND continued to silence the doubters.
With the help of the Nashville Predators Foundation and partners like Allstate, the Predators donated $500,000 to MEND as the push to #unsilencetheviolence continues.
"It's really nice that we're able to do this through our Foundation and all those revenues are generated though our fans," Henry said. "So to us, it's a responsibility to take our brand, our logo and say, 'how can we help change this?'"
The community outreach in Music City has gone from the first forum, with what Henry estimates was 40 people in attendance, to their most recent with over 500 attendees. And that's not including added assistance from Preds Captain Mike Fisher, defensemen P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis, plus forward Austin Watson, who have all become faces of the campaign for the Preds.
"Writing a check is one thing, saying we're involved is another, but having those four guys involved is tremendous," Henry said.
So what is the plan to reach the goal of ending the violence against women? It starts with educating young men and planting a seed, so that later in life, they'll not only do the right thing in their own lives, but will also pass it along to the next generation.
"I think the best way to get to a solution on this is people elevating those stats, those numbers, and the sheer epidemic of it and almost demanding the companies that you work with, the teams that you support, get involved," Henry said. "Because the more people we have involved in a positive way, the easier it's going to be for that 12-year-old-boy to tell his friends at the lunch table, 'no, that's not funny,' or 'delete that tweet.' That's what we need to do, we need to embolden these young men so they start stopping it."
Thursday's game when the Predators host Columbus at Bridgestone Arena is MEND night, where a public service announcement will be played for those in attendance, as well as more information on the cause and how to get involved. Last Saturday's game against Colorado was a special MEND broadcast, with the PSA debuting during the game, and Henry says the feedback has been tremendous.
"The best part about it is when we ran this in broadcast a year ago, teased it and then last week in its entirety, not one negative comment came of that," Henry said. "With something like this, you assume some people will come forward and say 'why are you doing this, why this cause, why you guys,' but it's just the opposite. People are thanking us, people are saying 'how do I get involved,' and that's what you want. The reason we put our brand behind something is to get the passion of our fans, and that's exactly what's happening."
For more information on MEND and how to get involved, visit ywcanashville.org/programs/mend. To join the cause at Thursday's Preds game, visit nashvillepredators.com/MEND.