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Where are they now? Original captain Tom Fitzgerald

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
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

Dec. 26, 1998
The Predators defeat the Washington Capitals, 3-1, to complete back-to-back wins over the previous year's Stanley Cup finalists. They had beaten Detroit, 5-3, three days earlier.

Dec. 23, 2000
David Legwand scores on a penalty shot in overtime to give the Predators a 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It marks the first successful sudden-death penalty shot in league history.

Dec. 12, 2002
Original No.1 netminder Mike Dunham is traded to the New York Rangers, making way for Tomas Vokoun to emerge as one of the league's elite goalies.

Dec. 14, 2006
Steve Sullivan notches the fastest three goals by an individual in franchise history as the Predators blitz the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators, 6-0, in the second contest of what would be a five-game winning streak.

Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Original captain Tom Fitzgerald

Nashville’s first captain, Tom Fitzgerald spent 307 games over four seasons with the team from 1998-2002 as part of a 1,097-game career which spanned 17 seasons from 1988-2006. 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, being hired as Director of Player Development for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“My primary job is to monitor the prospects, watch their development and help where I can, in addition to coaching from the sidelines without interfering with the process,” Fitzgerald said. “The team will lean on me when making decisions about players and their future in the franchise.”

When we caught up with Fitzgerald, he was on his way from his home in Boston to Lake Placid, N.Y., to watch 2006 third-round pick Brian Strait participate in the U.S. World Junior Evaluation Camp.

Talk about the experience of being the team’s first captain, watching it grow virtually from the ground up.
“It was a fantastic honor, and my proudest moment as a player to be named captain. For David Poile, Barry Trotz and Craig Leipold to think of me in that regard to lead a young team in the right direction was a tremendous honor. They had a game plan from Day One, and quite honestly, they taught me a lot about myself and what direction I wanted to go after I was done playing. It was the first time in my career I began to decide what I wanted to do after my playing career. It taught me a lot about myself – enjoying being around the younger players and talent, and helping try to guide them in the right direction as a pro. 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.”

What are your fondest memories of Nashville?
“I think opening night, 1998, was a great night for the city, the organization and all us players. You look back, and the first time I was able to put the sweater on with the letter ‘C’ on it was a fond memory. Also, one of my sons, Jack, was born in Nashville, so it will always have a huge place in both mine and my family’s heart because of the great times we had there.”

What was the best part about living in Nashville?
“It was the so-called ‘Southern Hospitality.’ The fans and the friends that we made were so genuine. Everyone was just so laid-back and polite. It was a fantastic place to live and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there and live if my occupation led me there.”

Who were you closest to during your time on the team?
“We were a very close-knit group. Greg Johnson, Billy Houlder, Scott Walker, Darren Turcotte and Jay More were just some of the guys there the first year, but we were all close. I am just naming five or six guys, but as I left Nashville, I kept in touch with many of them. As a captain – you are only as good as the people who are around you and I had some great people who helped me as a first-time captain. Cliff Ronning was there, and if it wasn’t for that move no telling how little success we would have had.”

Is there any one on-ice moment that you remember from your time in Nashville?
“We opened up that first season against my old team – the Florida Panthers. That was my team for five years and it was where I really became a National Hockey League player. When we opened up against them, I had revenge on my mind. It was ironic, but I gave every ounce of energy to try to win that game and unfortunately we lost 1-0. The thing that reminds me of that team is that we were a team that every night, you were in for a dogfight. We weren’t the most talented team, but we played hard, and if you do that, you give yourself a chance to win. We had a great structure and great coaching, so we knew how to stay in games. We didn’t get blown out many times because each guy knew their role and gave 110 percent every night.”

How did you grow personally during your time in Nashville?
“As captain, you are the one speaking on behalf of the team to the media, and you are the buffer between coaches, players and managers as well. You have to be an upfront-type of person and had to step up to the microphone when no one else wanted to. To me, your job just doesn’t end when you step off the ice, it goes into the community. I learned that earlier with the Panthers and tried to bring that with me to Nashville – a workmanlike attitude – because you owe that to the community, as much as there are times you just want to get in your car and not sign that autograph, it is part of your responsibility as a professional athlete. I learned you try to pass that information on and treat others as you want to be treated. I was treated extremely well – the Nashville Predators brought me back at the beginning of last season to honor me on retirement and that just sums up a first-class organization led by the friends I had in Craig Leipold, David Poile, Barry Trotz and Brent Peterson. The Nashville Predators will always hold a big part of my heart.”

10th Anniversary Feature Archive:
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Greg Johnson
Flashback Feature: Most Impressive single-game offensive performances
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Cliff Ronning
10th Anniv.: Where were they then? 
Flashback Feature: Ten years of transactions 
Where are they now? Catching up with Stu Grimson 
Where are they now? Original captain Tom Fitzgerald
View More