The Nashville Predators held the 11th annual Face Off Luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville to launch the new hockey season. Coach Barry Trotz, the staff and all the players were in attendance as well as a sellout crowd of supporters. Pete Weber and Terry Crisp were the hosts and Preds radio announcer Tom Callahan was the roving floor reporter, taking questions (one of which I'm sure he wished he hadn't) from the attendees.
Each year, the team has a new slogan for their marketing campaign, such as "It Stays With You." Pete and Terry joked that this year's slogan or catch phrase was going to be "How's Your Groin" after so many players have suffered strains and pulls in camp.
The format was to have Coach Trotz and the leadership group- Captain Jason Arnott and Alternates Steve Sullivan and Shea Weber- speak. Coach Barry Trotz was the first to speak and the comment he made that really stuck with me was his statement that this team is very determined to get back to the playoffs. The attitude of the players was good; they didn't like missing the playoffs; and they were determined to get back.
Captain Jason Arnott spoke next, and he reiterated the comments of Coach Trotz by saying this team has been focused from day 1 of camp toward being the best they can be and getting back to the playoffs. He made some interesting comments about the mix of players on this squad, stating that the young guys keep the veterans fresh and make it fun to come to the rink every day. He said this team has great off ice chemistry.
Steve Sullivan spoke about his absence from hockey and how good it was to get back with his team mates and on the ice. He gave credit to GM David Poile and the Coaching staff for sticking with him when he was unsure if he was going to be able to play again., and that he learned that the power of positive thinking was critical to his recovery.
Shea Weber was the last player to speak, and he mentioned that it is a tremendous honor to wear the "A", and that a lot of players could have worn it. He said that he is growing in to the role as one of the leaders on the team. He talked about participating in the Canadian Olympic Camp over the summer and what a great honor it is to wear your country's flag in the Olympics.
All four were asked what they liked best about Nashville, and all four agreed it was the fans. Jason Arnott said that no matter what happens on the ice, the players feel the support of the fans, and that it is not like that in every NHL city.
Barry Trotz talked about the effect of then Olympic break on the team in February. He said that the schedule compression meant more games in fewer days and it was going to be a grind for all teams. The teams that come out the best will be those that have the greatest depth. His assessment was that Nashville has built good depth in the organization that should help in this Olympic year.
The team leaves in the morning for Dallas to open up with the season. It is a great time of year as we get ready to drop the puck and explore the potential of this team. No doubt, there are some unknowns, perhaps more than in years past. This is a group, however, that has talent, has great character, and perhaps most importantly, has a fire, a drive to get back to the playoffs. This group will be, I believe, surprisingly strong. Let's go, boys. Time to show us what you have got.