July 2 to 15, 1997 to 2014: Poile takes helm as GM and several key free agents inked
The month of July traditionally ushers in the start of free agency, but one particular offseason it also brought about the installation of David Poile, the only general manager the franchise has ever known. The sole general manager in NHL history to be at the helm of two different clubs for 1,900 games and 500 victories, Poile joined the Predators on July 9, 1997, roughly 15 months before the team would play its inaugural game in 1998. Now the second winningest GM in NHL history with 1,319 victories to his name, Poile owns the longest active tenure in the League, having been at the helm of a franchise for 33 consecutive years. Here are just a few of Poile’s July transactions during his time in Nashville:
- July 2, 2001: Signed free-agent forward and current Preds broadcaster Stu Grimson
- July 2, 2006: Signed free-agent forward Jason Arnott
- July 5, 2013:Signed free-agent forward Eric Nystrom and free-agent goaltender Carter Hutton
- July 15, 2014: Signed free-agent forward Mike Ribeiro
July 6, 1998: Fitzgerald named Preds first captain
Tom Fitzgerald knew he was undertaking quite a responsibility when he was named the franchise’s first captain on July 6, 1998. Not only did he have to be the voice of the team, but he had to help mentor the prospects in the system, helping them blossom into the NHL’s elite.
“It was a fantastic honor, and my proudest moment as a player to be named captain,” Fitzgerald said. “For David Poile, [former Preds Head Coach] Barry Trotz and [original Preds owner] Craig Leipold to think of me in that regard to lead a young team in the right direction was a tremendous honor. I held wearing the ‘C’ in high esteem, and I am thankful for that, and the Predator organization. To see them grow to where they are now, I’d like to think I had a hand in that – watching the growth of guys like Legwand, Hartnell and Timonen. It taught me a lot about winning championships from within.”
Fitzgerald played 307 games in four seasons with the team from 1998-2002 as part of a 1,097-game career which spanned 17 seasons from 1988-2006. Under his watch, the Predators made giant strides toward the playoff team they would become in 2004 – the pillars of that team went from prospects to team leaders. He also pitched 42 goals and 88 points in his Preds tenure.
Upon retiring, the Billerica , Mass., native went to work for his hometown Bruins, one of seven teams he played for, as a television analyst on the New England Sports Network. In the summer of 2007, “Fitzy” headed to the front office, now serving as an Assistant General Manager for the New Jersey Devils.
July 8, 2010: Weber named the team’s first homegrown captain
On July 8, 2010, Shea Weber became both the youngest and the first Predators draftee to be named captain. Just 24 at the time, Weber was already considered one of the top blueliners in the NHL and was coming off a season in which he claimed a Gold medal at the Winter Olympics as a member of Team Canada, and led the Predators to the playoffs for the fifth time in the previous six seasons.
As captain, the Sicamous, B.C., native has led the Predators to three playoff appearances, two of which saw the team advance to the second round. Additionally, he was a finalist for the 2011, 2012 and 2014 Norris Trophy, participated in a trio of All-Star Games (2011, 2012 and 2015), and was voted a postseason First-Team All-Star twice (2010-11 and 2011-12). Weber has been steadily climbing several all-time franchise leaderboards and leads all defensemen in virtually every statistical category in club history.
Weber’s tenure won’t end soon either – he is under contract through the 2025-26 season.
July 13, 2011: “Behold the Gold”
On a warm, summer evening in Music City, thousands of Predators fans crowded the plaza outside Bridgestone Arena straining to catch a glimpse of the franchise’s bold, new look.
With two players modeling the gold sweaters and the AT&T Building displaying a gargantuan banner showing the team’s new uniform, the captivated crowd voiced their approval of the jersey that incorporated several Nashville-specific elements.
“I don’t think anyone else in the NHL has a gold jersey, so it’s kind of Nashville’s color, which is a cool thing,” former Preds forward Blake Geoffrion said at the jersey unveil party. “It’ll look really good with the gold out like we had in the playoffs, too. I like them a lot; it’s a sharp looking jersey.
“They tied in a lot of Nashville icons with the guitar pick, the piano keys on the neck and the guitar strings across the numbers on the back. Those elements make it really special and unique to us.”
Four years later, the Predators remain one of the League’s most easily recognizable teams thanks to their choice to turn Smashville golden.