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Army training sticks with Predators

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
The blue Nylon flag hangs proudly in the Predators' locker room at home and on the road. For many of the players, the training session at Ft. Campbell was a life-changing experience.
DETROIT -- The Nashville Predators have stared directly into the eye of adiversity this season, and they have found inspiration in the form of a little blue flag, engraved with the letters ‘PDQ’ and ‘NSDQ’.

The ‘PDQ’ stands for ‘Predators never quit’, and the ‘NSDQ’ stands for ‘Night Stalkers never quit’. The statements may not sound like much, but the memories they bring are a big reason for the team’s success this season.

On September 26, three days before their final preseason game, the Predators took an hour bus ride to Fort Campbell for a team-bonding mission. They left with much more than a flag.

“We went to the 160th, it’s a special ops (unit),” coach Barry Trotz said.  “They’re the guys that extract people. At night, they will go into enemy territory, and they have a motto that’s ‘never leave a man behind.’

“We thought that was real fitting for us, so we went out and had a little training camp in Fort Campbell and we did what they call ‘Black Day’, it’s what separates the men from the boys.”

‘Black Day’ certainly left an impression on the Predators.

“They put us through some of their training, and we went through all their obstacles,” captain Jason Arnott said. “We had two teams that went against each other; they basically ran us through what their rookies would go through. It was pretty unbelievable; it was a great experience. Hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

That’s saying a lot especially from someone who scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to win the Stanley Cup in 2002.

Trotz said that the experiences gained from the day’s activities helped a team in need of motivation at the beginning of the season. The Predators have struggled with injuries all season long, dating back to February 2007 when the team lost assistant captain Steve Sullivan to a back injury. Sullivan, who had scored at least 20 goals each season since 1998, missed all 82 games in the regular-season and is out for the playoffs.

“We started out this year obviously with a lot of people out of our line-up,” Trotz said.  “A lot of (the players) said it was one of those days where you don’t think you’re going to get through it, and they got through it, and I think that sort of set the stage for identity this year.”

The blue flag that the Night Stalkers presented to the team now serves as both reminder and reward.  The players pass it amongst themselves as a trophy, given to the ‘player of the game’ after every Nashville win. Veteran goalie Chris Mason said that the player who gets the flag isn’t always the one filling up the score-sheet.

“It’s spread around pretty good,” he said. “We’re a team, and we need everybody in the room, so it might not be for scoring goals, it might be for a shot block or a good penalty kill, so it gets spread around pretty well.”

The Predators will be clinging to the ‘Predators don’t quit’ motto as they continue through the Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Red Wings.

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