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The Nashville Predators are a professional ice hockey team based in Nashville, Tennesseemarker. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). They play their home games at Sommet Centermarker, formerly known as Gaylord Entertainment Center and Nashville Arena.

Franchise history

Hockey in Nashville

Hockey first appeared in Middle Tennessee in 1962 in the form of the Eastern Hockey League's Dixie Flyers. One of the first tenants of the Municipal Auditoriummarker, the Dixie Flyers played for nine seasons before folding in 1971. A decade later, Nashville Sounds owner Larry Schmittou made a second attempt at minor league hockey in Nashville when he brought the Nashville South Stars to town for the 1981-82 season. While featuring Bob Suter (Miracle on Ice team member and father of Nashville Predator Ryan Suter) as well as several of the parent club Minnesota North Stars' prospects, the franchise folded after just two seasons. In 1989, the ECHL Nashville Knights, perhaps the most popular of the minor league franchises, came to town. Coached by Predators assistant Peter Horachek, the Knights featured a potent offense that in 1994 set an ECHL record with 16 goals in one game.

In 1995, rumors began to circulate that the New Jersey Devils would be relocating to the planned Nashville Arenamarker. Nashville offered a $20 million relocation bonus to any team that would relocate, and the Devils attempted to terminate their lease with New Jerseymarker before finally restructuring it to stay put.

NHL expansion

After the attempt to get the Devils, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman noted that Nashville would probably at least be considered in upcoming expansion.

In January 1997, a group led by Wisconsinmarker businessman Craig Leipold made a formal presentation before the NHL requesting an expansion franchise. When Bettman and league officials visited Nashville to tour the arena, thousands gathered on the Arena plaza to greet them. In June, the league granted conditional franchises to Nashville, Columbusmarker, Atlantamarker and Minnesota. The Nashville team would be scheduled to begin play in 1998 if they met the NHL requirement of selling 12,000 season tickets before March 31, 1998. Of the four cities, Nashville was the only one with a completed arena, and therefore began play first. A month later, Leipold named former Washington Capitals general manager David Poile as the franchise's first general manager. Portland Pirates head coach Barry Trotz was named the franchise's first head coach on August 6.

On September 25, 1997, Leipold and team president Jack Diller held a press conference where they unveiled the franchise's new logo, a saber-toothed cat (Smilodon floridanus). The logo was a reference to a partial Smilodon skeleton found beneath downtown Nashville in 1971, during construction of the First American National Bank building, now the Regions Center marker.

Once the logo was unveiled, the franchise held a vote among fans to choose a name. Three candidates were culled from 75: Ice Tigers, Fury and Attack. Leipold added his own submission to the vote, Predators. On November 13, Leipold revealed at a press conference that his submission had won out and that the new franchise would be known as the Nashville Predators.

As of January, however, the Predators were still at least 6,000 tickets short of the NHL imposed 12,000 season ticket goal. Rumors began to circulate that the team would move before the first puck ever hit the ice. One rumor had Leipold trading franchises with the Edmonton Oilers, with the Oilers moving to Nashville and the Nashville expansion franchise moving to Houston, Texasmarker. Leipold shot this rumor down, "There is no chance".

When awarded a franchise, the Predators got a very lucrative deal. The city of Nashville paid 31.50% of the $80-million fee to join the league. The city also absorbs operating losses from the arena, despite the fact that the Sommet Centermarker is operated by a subsidiary of the team.

The Predators first took the ice on October 10, 1998, where they lost 1-0 at home to the Florida Panthers. Three nights later, on October 13, they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3–2 for their first win. Forward Andrew Brunette scored the first goal on a play that was reviewed by the video goal judge.

Summary of seasons

1998–99 season
The Predators, in their first year of existence, finished second-last in the Western Conference with a 28–47–7 record

1999–2000 season
The Predators finished with an almost identical record to the previous season (28–47–7–7) and finished last in the West behind the Calgary Flames. During a game versus the New York Islanders on February 20, 2000, the Predators scored four goals in 3 minutes and 38 seconds.

2000–01 season
The Predators opened with two games in Japanmarker against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Each team won a game in front of the largest crowds ever to see a hockey game in Japan. Backed by the goaltending duo of Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun, Nashville finished the season in tenth place in the West, 10 points out of a playoff spot with a 34–36–9–3 record, for 80 total points.

2001–02 season
A highlight of the season for the Predators was recording their 100th victory as a franchise on December 6, 2001. With that win, Nashville became the second-fastest expansion team of the 1990s to reach the 100-win plateau. The team was especially unlucky in overtime, finishing with a 28–41–13–0 record – good for 69 points and a 15th spot in the West.

2002–03 season
In 2002–03, coach Barry Trotz broke the record for most games coached by the original coach of an expansion team (392 games). Nashville finished the season with a 27–35–13–7 record for 74 points, putting them well out of contention in the Western Conference in 14 place.

2003–04 season
The Predators, under coach Barry Trotz, finished eighth in the Western Conference and made their first trip to the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings beat them in six games in the quarterfinal.

The 2004–05 season was locked out by a labor dispute between the owners and players.

2005–06 season
In 2005–06, the Predators set an NHL record by winning their first four games by one goal each (although two of those were shootout victories, which would have been tie games in previous seasons). They also became only the fourth NHL franchise to start the season 8–0; the last time a team did so was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who set the mark with a 10–0 start in 1993. The Predators set the franchise mark for wins in a season with a 2–0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes on March 16, 2006. In that match, Chris Mason became the ninth goaltender to score a goal. By the end of the season, the Predators had accumulated 106 points—their first 100-point season—and clinched home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in team history. They finished the season with an NHL-best 32–8–1 record at home.

In the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Predators faced the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Sharks beat them in five games.

2006–07 season
The Predators acquired veteran center Jason Arnott from free agency on July 2, 2006. Arnott and David Legwand led the team in goals with 27 each. Late in the season the Predators traded two former first round draft picks Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent, plus their first-round pick and a third-round pick in the 2007 draft, to the Philadelphia Flyers for five-time NHL all-star Peter Forsberg.

The Predators finished the season in fourth place in the Western Conference with 110 points, a franchise record. They were defeated by the San Jose Sharks in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs Western conference quarter-finals for the second year in a row, losing the series 4 games to 1, for the second straight season.

They had the third best season overall behind the Buffalo Sabres, and the Detroit Red Wings.

2007–08 season
After having their roster decimated during the off-season, multiple potential buyers, and rumors of the franchise potentially moving hounding the team until almost mid-season, the Predators were not expected to have a successful year. Chris Mason, former backup goaltender to Tomas Vokoun (who was traded to the Florida Panthers) had a shaky season, and shared net-minding duties with Dan Ellis. Ellis, who was signed from the Dallas Stars before the season began had a 233:39 long shutout streak (fifth longest in league history) nearing the end of the season that helped Nashville squeak into the eighth playoff spot with 91 points.

The Predators met the President's Trophy winning (and eventual Stanley Cup winners) Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs, and were defeated 4 games to 2 – their fourth straight first round knockout.

2008–09 season
The first off-season of settling in under new ownership was a quiet one for the Predators with little personnel movement. As such, the Predators began the season with little expectation. Following a strong push after the All-Star break and no movement at the trade deadline, the team found themselves still battling for a playoff spot into the last week of the season. Buoyed by the return of Steve Sullivan after almost two seasons recovering from a back injury, the Predators finished with 88 points, settling for 10th place in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

Sale of the Predators

On May 23, 2007, Craig Leipold was reported to have reached a tentative agreement to sell the team to the Chairman and Co-CEO of Research In Motion, Jim Balsillie. At the time, Leipold indicated that the team would play the 2007–08 season in Nashville but that the future of the team after that was not clear. Balsillie had long been rumored to be interested in placing another team in Southern Ontario. The deal was expected to be finalized by late-June and had to be finished by June 30, 2007. The proposed re-location site was Hamilton, Ontariomarker, with Balsillie's new company, Golden Horseshoe Sports & Entertainment (named after the portion of Southern Ontario centred around the west-end of Lake Ontariomarker, which is known as the Golden Horseshoe), securing exclusive rights to bring an NHL team to Copps Coliseummarker, as well as the rights to operate Hamilton Place, the Hamilton Convention Centre, and the associated parking facilities for the next 20 years. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger stated that Balsillie's intention was to bring an NHL team to Copps in Hamilton, and it was reported that Basillie would invest $140 million into the arena to bring it to modern NHL standards. Relocating to Hamilton, however, may have required compensation to be offered to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres because those teams have territorial rights to the region. Despite rumors to the contrary, it was reported that Kitchenermarker-Waterloo was not being considered as a possible location for the team.

On June 13, it was announced that season ticket deposits for the "Hamilton Predators" would begin to go on sale through Ticketmaster the next day. A source said Balsillie's objective was to show the league's governors that there is a Potential National Hockey League expansion into Canadalarge base of ticket buyers in Southern Ontario. After the drive started, over 13,000 season ticket deposits were sold, including all of the 70 available corporate box deposits, costing $5,000 each. At the time, there were just under 9,000 season ticket holders in Nashville.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated the provincial government was willing to consider offering financial support if the team relocated to Hamilton. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky, a member of the NHL Board of Governors through his ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes, openly supported the team's move to Hamilton, stating that an NHL team in Hamilton would be tremendously successful.

On June 23, information was leaked by several sources indicating that Leipold no longer wanted to sell the Predators to Basillie. Leipold responded indirectly advising that a deal with Basillie was still possible. Mr. Basillie's lawyer, Richard Rodier, was quoted as saying Craig Leipold's letter to the NHL "changed little if anything" in regards to the pending sale and was a mere formality as part of the sale process. Canadian insiders believed that the information and delay tactics may have been because the league did not want a team to move to Canada, something the NHL denies.

Subsequently, a campaign to land the team in Kansas City, Missourimarker, reportedly received a boost in late June 2007. The National Post of Canada, citing anonymous sources, reported that Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold plans to sell the team to San Josemarker venture capitalist William "Boots" Del Biaggio, who wanted to relocate the club to Kansas City’s new Sprint Centermarker for the 2008-09 season. Del Biaggio, who has a contract with Anschutz Entertainment Group to own an NHL club in Sprint Center, had made an offer reported to be for about $190 million for the Predators. In 2005, he had an agreement to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the club backed out of the deal after it won the NHL draft lottery and took Sidney Crosby with the first overall pick. Balsillie’s taking season-ticket deposits in Hamilton while the Predators still have a lease to play in Nashville upset NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman and reportedly caused Leipold to have second thoughts about selling to Balsillie. Although a ticket drive in selling corporate suites was underway in Kansas City,, it did not include season tickets like Balsillie's move. Later that day, Leipold denied rumours that he was dealing exclusively with Del Biaggio, stating that he is open to all bids and that a deal with Basillie was still possible. Leipold is said to have been incensed that Balsillie was reneging on his promise to not move the Predators and failing to make the required deposit in connection with the offer. The Globe and Mail reported on July 4, 2007, a group of 30 investors became the third party to make a bid to purchase the franchise and keep the team in Nashville.

On July 19, 2007, a group of local business owners known as Our Team Nashville held a rally at the Sommet Centermarker to encourage fans to buy season tickets in order to help the Predators meet the attendance figures needed to keep the team in Nashville. They drew approx 7,500 fans and sold the equivalent of 726 full season tickets during the rally. The rally was heavily supported by WGFX 104.5 "The Zone" sports radio in Nashville.

On August 1, 2007, the group who had intentions to keep the team in Nashville delivered a letter of intent from Craig Leipold. After protracted negotiations with the city of Nashville, the local group headed by David Freeman reached an agreement with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, and the NHL Board of Governors approved the sale on November 29, 2007. The $172 million acquisition of the Nashville Predators included repayment of existing debt of approximately $61 million and $2.2 million in fees and expenses.

If by the end of the 2009/10 season, the team loses at least $20 million or more in cash flow and does not average 14,000 per game in average attendance, the team can break its lease with the city of Nashville by paying a $20 million breaking fee. If the team is to be moved or sold, multiple cities could bid hard to attract an NHL team--Hamiltonmarker, Quebec Citymarker, Kansas Citymarker, Las Vegasmarker, Houstonmarker, Oklahoma Citymarker, Seattlemarker, Winnipegmarker and Portlandmarker among others, although subsequent general economic conditions may have a material adverse effect on the interest or ability of individuals to purchase the team. These potential cities could be required to offer exceptional arena deals for an NHL team and face the challenge of trying to deliver a fan base superior to that in Nashville. Changes to the lease with the city that were deemed necessary by the ownership to keep the team viable were eventually passed on April 15, 2008.

The sale of the Predators to the Tennessee-based group was made possible after Del Biaggio agreed to enter into a partnership with the locally-based buyers. Under the terms of the agreement, Del Biaggio and a minority partner acquired about 27% of the club. Del Biaggio is said to have obtained limited concessions from his new partners and the league in exchange for his involvement, including:

  • The right to buy out the other owners if the club incurred significant losses.
  • The right to sell his stake to the other owners if and when the club became financially stable.
  • The right to claim his share of any profits combined with full immunity from any cash calls that might be necessary.

It was widely assumed that Del Biaggio's long term goal remained the ownership of a club in Kansas City whether this team be the Predators, another existing team or an expansion franchise.

In June 2008 Del Biaggio ran into legal trouble over a multitude of unpaid loans, culminating in him filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Furthermore, it is alleged that Del Biaggio acquired the loans he used to buy his stake in the team through fraudulent means, prompting an FBImarker investigation and criminal charges.

Under United States bankruptcy law a trustee was appointed sell Del Biaggio's assets, including his stake in the Predators to pay off his creditors. One report indicated that, perhaps as a last ditch attempt to avoid bankruptcy Del Biaggio solicited an offer from Balsillie to buy his stake in the team at a "significant premium". That deal was said to have collapsed after the NHL and/or the local group either blocked it outright or at least insisted on the annulment of all concessions given to Del Biaggio prior to any transfer of the stake to Balsillie.

Major North American sports leagues are expected to exercise "due diligence" before allowing anyone to acquire a large stake in a franchise, so Del Biaggio's bankruptcy is considered to be a serious public relations setback for the league. Furthermore, the commencement of bankruptcy proceedings arguably could affect the rights of the league and the other Predators owners to block the sale of Del Biaggio's stake to the highest bidder. Depending on the circumstances, a party could argue that the constitution and by-laws of the NHL could be superseded if a bankruptcy court determined that the league was trying to enforce its rules in a manner detrimental to the creditors' interests, although it is entirely unclear whether such an argument could succeed. Predators' owners disagree completely with this theory.

On February 24, 2009, Calgarymarker billionaire W. Brett Wilson has entered discussions with Predators majority owner David Freeman with intentions to invest in their third sports franchise together. Wilson confirms that progress has been made in his plans to invest in the team, with a "handshake agreement" but to date, nothing in writing. The long disputed 27 per cent share that belonged to minority shareholder William J. "Boots" Del Biaggio III, is expected to be purchased by Wilson, with his eventual share in the Predators to be "nominal".

The Predators have announced that the team is expected to turn a small profit for the 2008-09 season despite the serious global economic downturn, and attendance is expected to exceed an average of 14,000 paid tickets per game.

Team information

The team practices at Centennial Sportsplexmarker. For the 2007–08 season, the Predators updated their jerseys with new striping. The logo was left unchanged, and the colors were left unchanged. Nashville was added to the 'away' jerseys above the logo.

Fan traditions

Fans of the Nashville Predators have modified a tradition of the Detroit Red Wings to show their support: on occasion, a fan will throw a catfish onto the ice. The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville cites the first instance of this on October 30, 2003. At least four catfish were thrown onto the ice after the first Nashville goal on November 13, 2003.

Section 303 is a section of notoriously fervent fans at the Sommet Center colloquially known as "The Cellblock". The group refers to themselves as "the loudest section of the loudest arena in the NHL". While no reports of relative sound pressure levels have been cited by the group, the section's predetermined motivating and demoralizing chants towards the home and visiting teams respectively can be heard from many locations within the arena.

The entirely fan-based organization has been recognized by the Predators' front office. A large banner was produced by the front office for posting on the wall behind the section. The organization maintains a website where chants tailored to the opponent can be reviewed before the game. The group also makes available merchandise through CafePress that reflects the Cellblock's brazen and supportive attitude.

The mascot of the Predators is Gnash, a blue saber-toothed cat. Introduced in 1998, his trademark includes stunts, such as very fast rappels, zip lines and a pendulum swing that takes him under the scoreboard and just inches off the ice.

Season-by-season record

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Predators. For the full season-by-season history, see Nashville Predators seasons

GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Records as of April 7, 2007.

Season GP W L T OTL Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
2004–05 Season canceled by 2004–05 NHL lockout
2005–061 82 49 25 8 106 259 227 1489 2nd, Central Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 1–4 (Sharks)
2006–07 82 51 23 8 110 272 212 1155 2nd, Central Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 1–4 (Sharks)
2007–08 82 41 32 9 91 227 224 1015 2nd, Central Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 2–4 (Red Wings)
2008–09 82 40 34 - 8 88 207 228 982 5th, Central Did not qualify

1 As of the 2005–06 NHL season, all games will have a winner; the OTL column includes SOL (shootout losses).

Notable players

Current roster

Team captains

Honored members

Hall of Famers: The Predators do not have a Hockey Hall of Fame member from their team.

Retired numbers: The Predators have not retired any numbers. However, Wayne Gretzky's number 99 was retired league-wide at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game on February 6, 2000.

First-round draft picks

Franchise scoring leaders

These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history.Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.

Pos = Position; GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Predators player

Player Pos GP G A Pts P/G
David Legwand* C 622 141 228 369 .59
Martin Erat* LW 478 102 201 303 .63
Kimmo Timonen D 573 79 222 301 .53
Scott Walker RW 410 96 151 247 .60
Greg Johnson C 502 93 145 238 .47
Cliff Ronning C 301 81 145 226 .75
Scott Hartnell LW 436 93 118 211 .48
J.P. Dumont* C 244 66 137 203 .83
Steve Sullivan* LW 191 73 117 190 .99
Jason Arnott* C 212 88 95 183 .86

NHL awards and trophies

Lester Patrick Trophy

Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Franchise individual records

See also


External links

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