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The Makeup of a Preds Captain

TV Analyst Chris Mason Weighs in on Playing with Each Predators Captain

by John Glennon @glennonsports / glennonsports@gmail.com

In his three separate playing stints with the Predators, television color analyst Chris Mason was part of some big moments in franchise history.

The former goalie played three games for the Preds' original expansion team in 1998-99, played for the Preds' first playoff team in 2003-04, and won 24 games for a Nashville team that piled up a record 110 points in 2006-07.

Mason also managed an impressive feat over the course of his seven seasons with the Predators: At one time or another, he was a teammate of all eight of the Predators' captains in franchise history - Tom Fitzgerald, Greg Johnson, Scott Walker, Kimmo Timonen, Jason Arnott, Shea Weber, Mike Fisher and Roman Josi.

Here are Mason's thoughts on what made each of the captains special:

Tom Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald was named the team's captain as soon as the Predators signed him prior to the first season.

The veteran center had already played 10 NHL seasons by the time he'd arrived in Nashville, and he'd been a part of a Florida Panthers expansion team that reached the Stanley Cup Final just three years into its existence. In other words, Fitzgerald wasn't about to let the Predators stumble through their first season just because they were the new kids on the block.

"Although everybody in the league and all the media and everything had no expectations for the Nashville Predators back then, he really had a separate set of expectations inside the dressing room," Mason said. "He would say, 'You know what? There are a lot of things we can't control, but the biggest thing we can control is our work ethic.' He really helped mold the Nashville Predators identity."

Fitzgerald played 307 games over the better part of four seasons for the Predators, serving as captain from 1998 until he was traded in 2002.

"When I think of Tom, I just remember thinking that this is what an NHL captain should be like," Mason said. "All the other players responded to what he said."

Greg Johnson - One of the original expansion draft picks of the Predators, Johnson was elevated from alternate captain to replace Fitzgerald. The swift-skating center would hold the role from 2002 through 2006, during part of Johnson's seven seasons with the Predators.

"He really had a different style of leadership because he was more of a leader that wasn't quite as vocal and commanding as Fitzy," Mason said. "But you would follow his lead. He worked extremely hard as a player on and off the ice. He's one of those guys that did everything the right way - the Predators' way. If you want to see what the definition of a Predators player is, I think Greg Johnson was that kind of player."

Johnson's specialty was connecting with players on an individual basis.

"He took time to get to know people on a personal level," Mason said. "You always felt like if you had an issue, you could always approach Greg Johnson. He made you feel like you if ever needed any help with anything - personally or if you were just moving into your apartment - he was the kind of guy that would put himself out there."

Scott Walker - Another of the original expansion draft picks, Walker served as captain for a couple of weeks in January of 2003, during part of the time Johnson was sidelined due to injury. A feisty right wing, Walker typified the grit of many of the early Preds' teams.

"He epitomized character and work ethic - he's that kind of player," Mason said. "He was a leader that took at times a more comedic spin on things. He could keep the dressing room light and was really inclusive of everybody. He would also make fun of himself more than anyone.

"But he definitely knew when to turn off the funny stuff and when to be serious. He had a really good balance, I think, on when to do those things."

Kimmo Timonen - A native of Finland, Timonen became the Preds' first European-born captain prior to the 2006-07 season. The small but highly skilled defenseman played eight of his 16 NHL seasons in Nashville, captaining the Preds for one year before he was traded.

"English was his second language, but when he spoke to the team, he came across as so intelligent," Mason said. "His words were so well thought out, and he has a way about him, I think, of really summing up and putting into words where the team was at and what we should be doing."

Mason said Timonen's hockey wisdom was reflected in his captaincy.

"He had a quiet fire about him, and he just had an uncanny way of saying the right things at the right time," Mason said. "He had a unifying way of talking and addressing the team. He had a way of uplifting the group and getting them to focus on what they needed to focus on."

Jason Arnott - The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Arnott was named captain prior to the 2007-08 season, following a rocky offseason that saw the Preds part ways with Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Tomas Vokoun and Paul Kariya. Arnott was preparing for his 14th season in the League at that point, and had already helped guide New Jersey to a Stanley Cup earlier in his career.

"He just had that presence that commands respect," Mason said. "He was a big, strong guy who could shoot the puck - a goal-scorer. He wasn't a big talker or a rah-rah guy, but he was the kind of captain that when he spoke, his words meant something. He had everyone's attention because you knew this was a guy who'd won a Stanley Cup."

Arnott, a first-line center, served three seasons as the Preds' captain, steering the team to three playoff berths.

"The team went through a big transition (during the 2007 offseason)," Mason said. "Arnie had a tough challenge and he did a great job of keeping us together and kind of re-focusing, changing our identity from the previous years."

Shea Weber - A punishing defenseman with a blistering slap shot, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Weber took over as captain prior to the 2010-11 season and held the role six years, the longest of any Predators player. Mason and Weber often roomed with one another when they were teammates and remain close friends.

"When I think of Shea Weber, I think of a person who is a natural born leader," Mason said. "He's somebody that people want to be around. They respect him. He's such a fierce competitor and his work ethic is uncanny. Every single day, he demands that not only of himself, but of his teammates."

The winner of the NHL's Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2016, Weber was succinct in his dealings with large groups of media. But he revealed a different side of himself with teammates.

"He doesn't like talking about himself," Mason said. "If you ask him about his teammates, he's more than happy to go on and give praise to his teammates and that kind of stuff. But away from the rink, he's hilarious. He has a great sense of humor and is full of personality."

Mike Fisher - Fisher became a marquee name right away when he arrived in Nashville because he was married to country singer Carrie Underwood. But the rugged center's game was anything but glittery. He was a complete player and a quality person, two traits the Predators counted on when they named him captain prior to the 2016-17 season.

"Fish is the type of person that embodies what a Nashville Predator is and what they'd started to build from Day One here," Mason said. "He's someone who is, first off, a quality human being as far as work ethic and character, and really became part of this community.

"He's the kind of guy that leaves an impact with everyone he plays with because he's someone that - when you're on the same team as Mike - you look to him. He's just one of the best people I've ever played with, and anyone that's ever played with him would probably say the same thing."

Fisher, who helped push the Predators into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, never put on airs despite the attention he and his wife received.

"He has absolutely zero ego," Mason said. "What you get with Mike is having that human connection. He really does a great job of just making sure everybody feels at ease."

Roman Josi - Josi, a highly skilled defenseman, took over as captain before the 2017-18 season. He'd played his first six seasons in Nashville, earning the respect of his teammates through his play and his intelligence.

"Roman is a great guy, and I think him and Shea Weber were really close," Mason said. "This is the trend I'm finding with the Nashville Predators - that the leaders before really make an impact and really leave the guys in very good and capable hands.

"Roman is at a good point in his career where he's definitely able to handle the responsibilities. The guys look up to Roman. I think he's one of the people that can balance keeping things light and fun when it needs to be and also, when things need to be more serious, he's got a good way of deciphering the timing of those two things."

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