The Nashville Predators are accustomed to hosting guests from all over Middle Tennessee, the country and even North America on any given night at Bridgestone Arena, but every once in a while, some international patrons stop by too. Earlier this month, the Preds welcomed visitors from Finland, who were here not only for pleasure, but business as well.
Three club executives and 15 sponsors from IFK Helsinki, or HIFK, a professional hockey club based in Helsinki, Finland, paid a visit to Nashville on Feb. 5 to see the Preds face Anaheim, and then again on Feb. 7 for the contest against the Rangers. While the group was in town to enjoy the on-ice product, they also came to see how the Predators, a member club of the NHL, conduct their business operations and pick up a few pointers.
“The reason why we do these trips is to learning something new,” HIFK Marketing Director Roland Carlsson said. “Another thing is that we have our biggest sponsors with us for five days. [That gives us a] good chance to talk to them, and they can also do business together.”
The guests from HIFK sat in on meetings with Preds executives from all different departments before the Feb. 5 contest, affording them a chance to ask questions as to how the Predators go about their daily operations. The visitors were then given a tour of Bridgestone Arena by Predators President Sean Henry.
“Whenever we get a request like this, whether it be from a minor league team in our sport, our colleagues in the NHL, colleges or foreign teams, I always want to go above and beyond,” Henry said. “We just sincerely want to open up our whole staff to them, because in the end, by talking about what we do, you reflect on what you do. It opens up a dialogue and you pick up some things from them.”
“We wanted to see how the things are done at [the Predators] organization and we got a great look at that,” Carlsson said. “There were lots of things [from the trip] that we are now talking about back home. We learned some things about [Nashville’s] opening [game introductions] and how [the Predators] look at the community with the players. Also, it was great to understand that we are also doing similar things, so it makes us more confident in our work back home.”
The HIFK group has taken trips similar to their visit to Nashville in larger markets, but never to the Music City. Former Preds forward Olli Jokinen, a Finnish native and part-owner of HIFK, was instrumental in getting the group in touch with the Predators.
“When [Jokinen] asked us to do it, we wanted to make sure we did it,” Henry said of hosting HIFK. “It was pretty rewarding afterward when [Jokinen] said, ‘I can’t believe how much time you spent with them, because no one else has done that.’”
Carlsson was most impressed by the ways in which the Predators organization treats their fans, particularly when it comes to getting them in the building.
“The biggest thing was how the Predators’ ticket sales [representatives] take care of customers,” Karlsson said. “We think that the ticket buyers get great service from the Predators.”
Carlsson believes that his group got plenty of ideas and information out of the visit, while also enjoying what Nashville has to offer.
“It was unbelievably great, both inside the arena and outside,” Carlsson said of the trip. “Our group was excited for the warm welcome we got from the Predators and the city.”
So, would the HIFK constituents ever consider a return trip to the Music City? It seems that a second visit is likely.
“The feeling during the games was so great and what happens on Broadway, you just have to come back,” Carlsson said. ”We think we should already book our flights for the [Stanley Cup Final].”