by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
This is a short list of key players. You’ll meet more of the people behind the scenes as the season progresses.
The Predators Owner Group and Other Wonky Executive Types
Hockey owners and GMs are a colorful lot. They range from the type of person who makes you check your pockets as soon as they walk away to upstanding, hardworking types who sincerely love the game and want to see their clubs succeed. The Predators Organization is blessed because the people who wear the big hats in Nashville fall under the latter category.
The Owners: The team is owned by Predators Holdings, LLC. This year the title of Chairman and Alternate Governor was awarded to Tom Cigarran. Cigarran made his first official appearance in this capacity at the Skate of the Union event in July of this year. As demonstrated by his presence at that function, his leadership style is passionate and outgoing. He is outspoken about his goals towards seeing an improved Nashville Predators and has promised to support the ways in which the organization is strong and strengthen the areas that need improvement. He was explicit about his goals concerning rebuilding a more aggressive, winning team in Nashville.
General Manager: One of the original visionaries behind the creation of the team, David Poile is a member of an elite list. He’s one of the ten longest tenured general managers in the NHL. His efforts towards creating a bigger and better Fanged Cat every year have not gone unnoticed. Poile earned the Lester Patrick Award in 2001 for his work towards the continued growth and development of the sport. His accolades include a nomination in 2009 for “General Manager of the Year” by the NHL. Before coming to Nashville, The Sporting News honored him twice as their choice for Executive of the Year during the 82-83 and 83-84 seasons as GM for the Washington Capitals.
Nashville ranks 28th in the NHL when it comes to funding and resources. What Poile manages to do every year through some very creative leadership moves and informed risk-taking is nothing short of miraculous. His decisions have led to the development of players who have distinguished themselves in Nashville and beyond, both as pros and as representatives for their home countries in the Olympics.
In 2008, Poile was named Associate General Manager of the United States Olympic Hockey Team. The team he helped put together would eventually bring home the silver in an intense final match against Canada in 2010.
Aside from his work in team development, Poile is still an active force in the evolution of the game itself. He is part of a steering committee that examines and recommends changes to the NHL’s rules and standards of play. The elimination of the red line and the regular season shootout are two of the innovations brought about by this group.
Poile is in his 28th year as a GM and from the promising signs that have been coming from the ‘Stone and the ‘Plex all summer, it looks like the best is yet to come.
CEO and COO: Jeff Cogen and Sean Henry are the newest members of the Predators Front Office. Jeff Cogen comes to Nashville from the Dallas Stars Organization. Under his guidance, the Stars were a consistent contender as a business entity. Their attendance records were in the top ten for the NHL during most of his time with that organization. As someone with experience and enthusiasm for the growth of hockey in nontraditional markets, his presence is a good sign for Nashville’s journey towards becoming a hub of southern hockey activity.
Sean Henry is also an old hand at meeting the challenges of working in the Sunbelt. His move to Nashville follows eleven years with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. He is credited with spearheading the positive changes in The Lightning’s sales strategies including the formation of suite and special ticketing programs in Tampa Bay.
The Coaching Staff
In spite of the common perception that Nashville is a newcomer to the North American hockey world (actually, hockey has been here on and off since 1962), the Predators boast one of the best coaching and development groups in the league. All of the gentlemen listed here have depth of experience and winning track records. It’s no accident that other franchises often look to Nashville when they’re scouting for talent to fill their rosters. Nashville’s development affiliations with the Milwaukee Admirals and the Cincinnati Cyclones have produced more than a few star players over the years.
Who are the bosses behind the bench?
Associate Coach: Following a Memorial Cup-winning stint as the head coach for the WHL Winter Hawks, Brent Petersen came to Nashville as an assistant coach. The Calgary, Alberta native has been instrumental in encouraging the continued presence of hockey, not just as a pro franchise to watch but as a game for everyone. He teaches seminars for those wishing to coach in the Nashville Area and has worked with the hockey program at Middle Tennessee State University.
Assistant Coach: The idea of hockey in Nashville was nothing new to Peter Horacheck when he was appointed assistant coach to the Predators in 2003. At one time, he coached the ECHL Championship winning Nashville Knights and went on to coach the Milwaukee Admirals before coming back to Music City.
Head Coach: If David Poile is the guiding executive influence behind the Nashville Predators, Barry Trotz is the man on the front lines who makes the quickfire tactical decisions. He’s the first one there to offer praise when his boys do well and share the responsibility when they don’t. His tenure as Nashville’s head coach is the second longest in the league. He’s the only NHL coach Nashville has ever known and is the face of the franchise as far as many fans, colleagues, and writers are concerned.
Trotz began his coaching career as an assistant coach at the University of Manitoba following three years in the WHL where he played for the Regina Pats and the Dauphin Kings. His final year as a player was marked by the Kings’ grabbing the league championship and getting the Anavet Cup. Following his initial stint as an assistant coach at University of Manitoba, he became the head coach and GM for his former WHL team in Dauphin and then returned to U of M as head coach while working as a talent scout for the Washington Capitals.
This led to his ascending to the role of head coach for Washington’s AHL feeder team, the Baltimore Skipjacks, who were later relocated and renamed the Portland Pirates. From 1992 to 1997, he led the team to two league finals and a Calder Cup win in 1994.
Trotz’ bench style is deceptively laid back to those who are watching from the comfort of their seats at home and at the ‘Stone. He has demonstrated an ability to bring out the best in his athletes, utilizing their strengths on the ice while stressing the importance of the kind of personal growth that keeps his team members viable and vital players over multiple seasons.
For his efforts, Trotz has been honored by both peers and sports writers. In 2009, he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy and has been named “NHL Coach of the Year” by The Sporting News. As the Predators prepare to start their 13th season, the idea of anyone else behind the bench is almost unthinkable for many. To Predsnation, thirteen might very well be Nashville’s lucky number.