The idea that Nashville could host an NHL All-Star Game actually began to take shape when the Music City was home to the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. On the morning of that draft, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to a crowd of 400 at a breakfast sponsored by the Nashville Sports Council.
Commissioner Bettman went on later that morning to extoll the virtues of Nashville as a hockey city.
When the 2003 Entry Draft was over, it was clear that the city had made a huge impression on the Commissioner. Listen to what he had to say at a Town Hall meeting of Predators Season Ticket Holders at the Convention Center on March 27, 2004:
After all of that, it came down to a matter of infrastructure. Over the past few years, the downtown has blossomed. The Music City Center will be a great place to stage many of the activities that now surround the All-Star Game. So many hotel rooms have been added since the draft was here, and that helps make Nashville “The It City” even more.
While it will have been 13 years since the draft was here until the All-Star Game has come to town – you have other things to consider as well. First, consider the availability of the games themselves. The league does not schedule them for years when the NHL participates in the Winter Olympics.
That eliminated 2006, 2010 and 2014. Unfortunately, we also had lockouts, which eliminated 2005 and 2013 from possibilities. In addition, All-Star Games booked for those latter two years were subsequently rescheduled, which further delayed getting a game in Nashville. For example, this season’s game will be in Columbus, which was supposed to have hosted it in 2013.
Now the concept has moved closer to reality. My most fervent wish would be that everyone who was with the Predators from the start, even those we have unfortunately lost over time, could be back to enjoy it.
In addition to attending many of the games in recent years, I was lucky enough to have been part of staging the All-Star Games of 1978 (at the Aud in Buffalo)
and 1981 (at the Forum in Los Angeles).
The NHL All-Star Game has grown to be one of the great celebrations of the game itself.
Nashville has earned it!