The Nashville Predators are an NHL team based in Nashville, Tennessee. They began play in the 1998-99 season as the fifth team to join the NHL during the modern expansion era. The Predators, a member of the Western Conference's Central Division, play at the Sommet Center (formerly the Gaylord Entertainment Center) in downtown Nashville.
The Predators were sold to Nashville-based Predators Holdings LLC in late 2007, leaving Leopold out of the picture.
In 1996, (former) owner Craig Leipold's Leipold Hockey Holdings, LLC was granted an expansion franchise by the NHL Board of Governors, and that franchise ended up in Nashville. The team was dubbed "the Predators" because of the discovery of a fossilized smilodon skeleton on the grounds of the arena while it was being excavated prior to construction in 1996. As such, the team's logo is the head of such a cat, facing the right in a kind of swept-forward posture. Team jerseys are colored in varying combinations of yellow, white, navy blue, gray and black, depending on whether it's a road game, home game or the games in which they (apparently arbitrarily) wear their third jerseys, which are predominantly yellow. Barry Trotz was named head coach before the team began play, and he has held the job since then.
As the team carries on, it becomes more interesting. A no-name goalie they acquired during the expansion draft, Tomas Vokoun, went on to become an All-Star in 2003-04, a season during which he played almost every game (73 total, missing only 9; quite a rare feat for a goalie). That season also saw the team accrue 91 points (38-29-11-4), good enough for a spot in the playoffs as the Western Conference's #8 seed. The #1 seeded Detroit Red Wings defeated them four games to two in the Predators' first ever playoff series, though now that they're over the "first time in the playoffs" hump, maybe they'll have better luck in the future, although they dropped round one again in 2006, this time to the San Jose Sharks. After all, 91 points in a season is quite good, and if it weren't for the glut of winning teams that year, it would've been an outstanding record. General Manager David Poile (recipient of the 2000-01 Lester Patrick Trophy) has made a few shrewd moves and had, before the lockout, put together a pretty good team by trading for winger Steve Sullivan and defenceman Jamie Allison; making a few retrospectively wise draft choices (defenceman Kimmo Timonen, a two-time All-Star; David Legwand, predicted to be the "franchise" player (although, thus far, his numbers have been average at best); and winger Scott Hartnell), and signing of winger Paul Kariya in 2005, which was their first blockbuster move. The aforementioned goalie Vokoun is a total workhorse, and it isn't hard to imagine him putting up Giguerian numbers during the playoffs in the near future (if he does, it won't be for Nashville; he was traded to the Florida Panthers during the 2007 offseason). Poile pulled off another shrewd move at the 2007 trade deadline, giving up a number of high draft picks and a couple of position players to Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Peter Forsberg. All things considered the Preds gave up a lot for Forsberg, who, as of the 2007-08 offseason, has not yet decided whether he's even going to continue playing in the NHL, or return to Sweden and play there, or retire outright.
Vokoun has been traded since this writeup first appeared, to the Florida Panthers, Kimmonen signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Kariya signed a lucrative deal with the St. Louis Blues.
The first person of Inuit descent ever to play in the NHL, right wing Jordin Tootoo, made his debut during the 2003-04 season. Since his NHL debut, he's garnered quite a reputation as a pest¹, not unlike Sean Avery or Tyson Nash. (He has since moved on and no longer plays for the Predators.)
The team landed another big-name free agent during the 2006 offseason when they signed center Jason Arnott for five years.
A fire sale of sorts ensued after the 2006-07 season. Timonen and Kariya both jumped ship, landing with the Philadelphia Flyers and the St. Louis Blues, respectively, and a number of questionable trades were made. Forsberg returned to Sweden after the season and he spent six months dithering about whether or not he'd return to the NHL before he signed with the Avs for the remainder of the 2007-08 season in March. I consulted a Magic 8 Ball about the team's future; it said "outlook not so good."
The Predators have put hockey on the map in a place where it had been totally absent, and are thus very popular in Tennessee and the American mid-south. The team operates or contributes to a large number of local charities and hockey awareness programs, and are generally considered to have one of the best team/fan relationships in the league. To this end, they made the "playoff promise" in 2002, which stated that if they failed to make the playoffs that year or in 2003, they'd refund 100% of the cost of season tickets to the team's season ticket holders. Of course, they failed to make the playoffs in either of those years, and ended up losing a significant chunk of season ticket revenue. Nevertheless, the gesture endeared them to the city, and home games are consistently sold out.
Taking a cue from fans of the Detroit Red Wings, fans at home games have taken to throwing dead catfish on the ice (Red Wings fans throw dead octopi) during the playoffs, harkening to their southern origins.
The team finished only three points behind the Buffalo Sabres for the 2006-07 President's Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the season. (Buffalo and Detroit actually tied for points, but since Buffalo scored more goals during the season, they got the trophy.)
Leipold sold the team in 2007 so he could purchase the Minnesota Wild. The new owner is a group of investors led by David Freeman, who bought the team on a platform of keeping it in Nashville. Investment groups in Hamilton, Ontario (headed by Blackberry inventor Jim Balsillie) and Kansas City, Missouri (headed by Sprint) had previously tried (and failed) to negotiate a sale with Leipold during the year the team was up for sale. Had either been successful, the team would've moved.
In 2011, the Predators advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time, defeating the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Goalie Pekka Rinne was a finalist for the 2011 Vezina Trophy, as well. Not a bad year, although they lost the second round series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Complete team statistics (updated at the conclusion of each season):
- Navy blue (primary), white, green, gray, red and yellow (accents) at home², while the road jerseys use white as their primary color and the others for accents³.
- Their (IMO) rather ugly third jersey, which thankfully isn't seen very often, is almost completely bright yellow, with the only other visible colors being the logo (gray/green/red/navy blue) and the names and numbers (black)4.
- Jordin Tootoo hits compilation (4:31 in length)
- Home jersey
- Road jersey
- Third jersey