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Preds Rookies Pause to Touch Nashville Community

by Nashville Predators / Nashville Predators

In the midst of a week full of on-ice drills, off-ice testing and team-building activities, the Nashville Predators prospects, in town for the team’s annual development camp, left the rink on Thursday afternoon to head out in the community.

With the help of volunteers from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the Preds prospects made stops all over Nashville. Below is a flavor of just some of the ways they brightened the days of people across the city:

Best Buddies at Pinewood Social:

The only thing that could be heard over the crashing of bowling pins was that of laughter. Crash. Laugh. Louder crash. Louder laugh.

Joviality is a constant in most Best Buddies events, and Thursday’s get together at Pinewood Social, in conjunction with the Predators Development Camp Community Relations Day, was no different. Four Preds prospects, forwards Anthony Richard, Kevin Fiala, Vinni Lettieri and d-man Andrew Sinard, joined a couple dozen Best Buddies participants, most of them with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for an hour blocked off to simply help new friendships start.

“We want everyone to be able to say they have a friend that they can count on, not just a friend that says ‘hi’ in the hall, but someone they can lean on when they need help.” Best Buddies Program Manager Will Macon said. “We just wanted to get our people together and have them hang out with some of the Predators’ players. We were able to get both groups of people together, and we found out we’re a lot more the same than we are different.”

In his second Development Camp with the Preds, 2015 fourth-round pick Anthony Richard has come to look forward to the day during the week that affords the club’s prospects an opportunity to impact other Nashvillians.

“We not only get a break from skating and working out, but we get to come here and see all these smiling faces,” he said. “I think that’s an awesome day for us in the middle of this week.”

— Thomas Willis

Ronald McDonald House:

Teemu Kivihalme knows his cupcake decorating may not win him any awards, but the children who will enjoy them won’t mind.

Kivihalme joined his fellow Preds prospects Vladislav Kamenev, Teddy Doherty and Zachary Sawchenko at Ronald McDonald House on Thursday afternoon to bake treats. Volunteers from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee joined the players in the kitchen, preparing everything from cookies to rice Krispy treats, set to be enjoyed by those who could use a sweet spot in their day.

“Giving back is awesome,” Kivihalme said. “Being interactive with other people around the community is definitely something cool to do, and baking, I haven’t baked in a while, so this is nice to do.”

Ronald McDonald House provides essential resources to families who have a critically ill child receiving treatment at a local hospital, offering them all the comforts of home while they’re in Nashville. For those families dealing with difficult situations, a sense of stability can make a big difference.

“It’s pretty cool for our families here to be able to say, ‘I met a hockey player today,’” Ronald McDonald House Executive Director Elizabeth Miller Piercy said. “We have lots of people that come here and they’re under a lot of stress, they have lots of other things on their mind, and it’s a nice, relaxing thing that they can do to enjoy a little bit of something that’s unique, to come to our house and have a bunch of hockey players cooking in the kitchen.”

The gelatin dessert chilling in the refrigerator now will make someone’s day later on, which just goes to show how a simple gesture can impact those who need it most.

“People watch you for your hockey, but being able to show yourself and who you really are outside of the rink means just as much as being on the ice,” Kivihalme said. “Being able to engage with the fans, you build that relationship and build that fan base and we’re happy to do it.”

— Brooks Bratten

TN National Guard:

Patrick Harper, Tyler Moy, Zach Stepan and Zach Walker tested their street hockey skills Thursday afternoon at the Tennessee National Guard.

The prospects, along with Nashville Predators office staff, visited with the National Guard and learned the ins and outs of what it means to be a part of the organization, even getting a tour of a Black Hawk helicopter.

After visiting and learning about the helicopters, next up was putting their street hockey skills to the test against two Nashville community based teams - the Music City Flyers and the Berryfield Bombers. Moy and Walker played for the Bombers, while Harper and Moy wore jerseys for the Flyers.

“We love it; these guys have been looking forward to it since they heard about it the other day,” Brandon Thompson said. “Anytime that we get to interact and share what we do on a daily basis is fun. These may be the stars we may see here in the next couple of years, so it’s nice to have a relationship with them.”

After a competitive hockey game, there was time to chat and make some new friends. Overall, the day was filled with excitement from all perspectives.

“It was a really humbling experience,” Moy said. “Being able to play and hang out with the guys that keep us safe and give us our freedom here at home is definitely a fun time. I think we had as much fun, if not more fun, than the guys here. It’s just great to be able to interact with these guys, and play a game that we love so much. To be able to bring that to them, it was an awesome opportunity.”

— Tiffany Williams

Camp Widjiwagan:

Trevor Murphy, Jack Dougherty, Rem Pitlick and Kris Bennett joined a group of young campers at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan to help them enhance their skills in street hockey.

Competitive from the start, the prospects seemed to be fighting for bragging rights in the locker room over the course of the day. Even Chewbacca, from Star Wars, wanted in on the action as he participated in the activities as well.

As the score was lost in the competitive spirit, second-year development attendee, defenseman Trevor Murphy reflected on the importance of interacting with the community.

“Nashville is huge on that. Coming in and helping out with the community and playing around with these little kids makes it pretty special for them. It’s a lot of fun today playing roller hockey.” Murphy said. “I’m sure the kids do the same thing at camp all time, so just to switch it up a bit with us, it’s probably pretty special to them. We all had a good time today interacting with the kids.”

— Nino DiPasquale

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