Ice has been built at Bridgestone Arena, single-game tickets are set to go on sale this Saturday and excitement continues to mount as the 2015-16 Nashville Predators season approaches.
That growing enthusiasm was on display Wednesday afternoon as Predators President Sean Henry and Television Play-by-Play Broadcaster Willy Daunic spoke to a group at the Jim Wood Golden Bison Luncheon on the campus of Lipscomb University, discussing business, broadcasting, and of course, hockey.
After one of the most successful seasons in club history in 2014-15, including 47 victories and a team-record 30 sold out, regular-season games, Henry addressed the franchise’s stability, both on and off the ice.
“Where we’re sitting right now from a hockey franchise standpoint, we’re better poised as a franchise because of the talent we have and how long they’re locked up, than we ever have been in the history of the team,” Henry said. “When you look throughout the League, there’s probably not another team that’s set up for the next five to eight years to be as consistent as we’re going to be. Hopefully we catch the magic in that run and win the Stanley Cup, but at least compete for it year in and year out…[Predators General Manager] David [Poile] has done an incredible job, and the business side is coming around to give him those resources.”
The NHL’s awarding of the 2016 NHL® All-Star Game to Nashville is evident in the success of not only the franchise, but the city as a whole. The region is known for doing it big when it comes to hosting events, and the last weekend in January will be no exception.
“We told the League we’re going to do something no one’s ever done before in our League,” Henry said. “We’re going to take the best of the CMA Festival and the All-Star Game and collide the two. We’re going to be inside and outside, we’re going to have stages set up throughout town, we’re going to have Fan Fair at the Music City Center, we’re going to build an outdoor rink; the whole city is going to connect to do something pretty special.”
Henry also spoke on the community efforts of the team, such as the Nashville Predators Foundation’s continued commitment to support Nashville and Middle Tennessee charities and organizations through time and monetary donations, as well as the success of the Ford Ice Center’s inaugural year. Youth hockey registrations in the community are up 40 percent since the opening of the facility, and the Predators president believes there is more to come from grassroots efforts and growing the game throughout the region.
When springtime comes around, the focus shifts to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the Preds hope to be participating in once again. A member of the organization since 2010, Henry says he saw something different in the Predators fan base last spring after the club was eliminated in the first round of the postseason, which has him anticipating this season more than any other in the past.
“It used to be, we made the first round and we’d celebrate; we’d pop the champagne corks making the playoffs and that was good enough,” Henry said. “This is the first year I remember where all of our fans were so disappointed in how it ended. To me, that’s the best thing to happen. For people to expect us to go further and for all of us to say the same thing, ‘We should’ve gone further, what are we going to do to get there?’ and that’s exciting.”