The Nashville Predators' 2007-2008 season marks the tenth season in the history of the franchise. We're celebrating the occasion with a special section of our Web site, dedicated to revisiting the history of the organization. This section will grow with new features and interactive elements as the 10th Anniversary Season unfolds. (Note: Click the 10th Anniversary banner at the top of any page in this section to return to this index.)
This Month in Predators' History Feb. 1, 1999
The Predators opened their practice facility at the Centennial Sportsplex.
Feb. 15, 1999
Wayne Gretzky plays his only game in Nashville. Gretzky, in his final NHL season, recorded five assists to help the visiting Rangers beat the Predators 7-4.
Feb. 1, 2001
The Predators rally from a three goal deficit to beat the LA Kings 6-4. Bill Houlder started the rally at 14:24 of the second period and Greg Johnson netted the game-winner at the 14:11 mark of the third period.
Feb. 27, 2003
Mario Lemieux plays in his only career game at Nashville. The Preds held Lemieux and the Penguins offense in check, earning a 6-0 win.
Feb. 18, 2004
Steve Sullivan makes his Predators debut a success by scoring four points with a hat trick and an assist in Nashville's 7-4 win over San Jose.
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Forward Rob Valicevic
Rob Valicevic made Predators history on Nov. 10, 1999, becoming the first player to record a hat trick for the franchise, tallying three goals in a span of 11:12 in a 4-2 rout of Chicago at the United Center. A veteran of nine professional leagues from the U.S. to Germany and Finland played in 159 games for Nashville from 1998-2001, scoring 26 goals and pitching in 19 assists. He has yet to determine where he will play for the 2007-08 season, but has played the past two years for Ingolstadt ERC of the German Elite League.
“The overall experience of living and playing in Germany has been really good,” Valicevic said. “My family has enjoyed it over there, we have made some good friends there, and my son Reese has become fairly fluent in German so he has adapted well too.”
What are your fondest memories of Nashville?
“First and foremost would be the people we met. People like Dr. McPherson (team dentist) and his entire family, as well as Brody and Cristin Wallace (team dentist). I guess just all the hospitality, and how well they accepted us there and made us part of the community made it a great place to live.”
What was the most exciting part about being a Predator?
“I can’t speak highly enough about David Poile, he was a great GM and handled things with the utmost respect as far as players go, and Barry Trotz and his entire coaching staff were unbelievable. I guess the highlight of my career there was the hat trick in Chicago – to this day I still can’t believe it happened.”
Speaking of the hat trick, what was it like to make franchise history like that?
“To this day it is still surreal. It happened so fast, that oddly enough, it still hasn’t sunk in. In a matter of three shifts there were three goals. I was playing with Greg Johnson and Ville Peltonen at the time, and I can still see that third goal going in. It was quite an honor to be a part of the whole history-making process.”
Who were you closest to during your time on the team?
“Probably Vitali Yachmenev – we were neighbors and we drove to the rink together quite a bit. I got to know his wife Tina, and his sons. I got to know David Legwand fairly well too since he is from my hometown of Detroit – we talked quite often. But with that team, it wasn’t really one person, nobody really felt like they were better than anyone else and that is what made that team special. Everyone cared about everyone else.”
What part of the city did you miss most once you left?
“I have to say it again – the people. We really missed not seeing Brody and Cristin Wallace, and Dr. McPherson. They were some of our closest friends. Also, we missed being a part of the nightlife in Nashville, where everyone headed downtown at night to go to the country bars and all the entertainment venues. We had a friend – Bo Martinovich who worked for Sony – and we would always head down there with him. The entire experience of Nashville and the stars that are there is something my wife and I will never forget, and at times we miss a lot.”
How did you grow either professionally or personally during your time in Nashville?
“Nashville was kind of a dream come true for me, so the entire time I was there professionally, I was kind of on cloud-nine. You work your entire life to get there and when you finally do, it makes all the hard work pay off. It shows how hard you have to work, and basically how hard you have to dream to make them come true. Personally, I had my son there – our first child Reese – and I still remember our nurse’s name, Janelle, who helped deliver him at Baptist Hospital. It is something that you never forget. Our family really started to expand while we were in Nashville, so I have great memories with everyone involved.”
Is there anyone who was on one of your Nashville teams that went on to surprise you with what they have accomplished in the league?
“I wouldn’t say surprised as much as being happy. I was glad to see David Legwand finally play to the ability he is capable of because he is a very talented player. Also, when Ville Peltonen left the team, I knew how good he really was, so when he came back to the NHL with Florida, it was good to see. Good-hearted guys like that deserve it and it proves that good things happen to good people.”