You’ve probably heard about the “Predators Way” recently. If you follow the Nashville Predators, you’re probably familiar with the term. Even if you don’t keep an active eye on the team, you may be aware of those two words. In essence, it’s a mindset. It’s the way the Predators want to play. It’s the identity they want to have. It comes up when players, coaches and front office staff describe their keys to winning and it’s also uttered after tough losses as something they lacked.
The Predators have long aimed to play with a hard-working style. Their wins can be attributed to this mindset, and their losses should never be as a result of poor work ethic. When watching the team play you can often see that sacrifice from skaters. The hardest workers crash the net, they go to the tough areas, they forecheck hard, they block shots and take hits to make plays.
The Predators Way has been mentioned lately because two players who exemplified it have been in the headlines recently. Viktor Arvidsson was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, much to some fans’ dismay. He played every shift like he had something to prove and if you asked him, maybe he did. Then there’s Pekka Rinne. The Predators great announced his retirement after a 15-year NHL career, spending every season with the team that drafted him back in 2004.
The former 258th overall pick epitomized that hard-working ethos that is preached so much. You hear people describe some players as “never taking a shift off,” well Rinne never took a game off. He was never satisfied, always striving to be better. Even at the peak of his career, when he was well and truly solidified as the Predators’ number one goalie, he never became complacent. Watching the 6-foot-5 goaltender, you got the feeling he was always making sure he didn’t lose his starting job, even though the team’s depth chart didn’t warrant that type of change. But that’s what the greats do. They don’t play to a “just good enough” standard. They set their own bar and then raise it themselves. Rinne did just that all throughout his career.
When he signed what would be his final NHL contract, Rinne never got distracted by over-celebrating. Rather that very night, after putting pen to paper, he shut out one of the best teams in the NHL, the Boston Bruins.
After playing an integral role in the Predators’ 2017 Stanley Cup Final run, he never got despondent after the unfortunate result in the final series. It may have been understandable for there to be a slump during the following season. However, that wasn’t the case, in fact, he did the complete opposite. Rinne won the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18 and led the league with eight shutouts.
It goes to show he is the ultimate team player. No matter what is going on, signing a new contract, suffering the disappointment of losing in the Stanley Cup Final, Rinne never lets it distract him from focusing on how he can help the team become the best version of itself. He gives everything he has and then he gives more.
Forever a Nashville Predator
When you walk into the Bridgestone Arena right now and look around, you’ll see banners signifying team accomplishments, division championships, conference championships and a Presidents’ Trophy – if you’re not a Predators fan, yes, we all know there are jokes to be made here. But you’ll notice that, unlike their older, more experienced rivals, there are no jerseys of past players who’ve made their mark on the game and the team.
Arguably, the Predators haven’t lacked players worthy of this honor. But the franchise is still relatively young. When you think about what players should be forever immortalized in a home arena, you may think of a player who spent the majority of his career with one team, perhaps going as far as saying they need to spend their whole career with the same franchise. They also must have been a pillar of the team’s success. Well, being an expansion team, the Predators were primarily built from inherited players from other squads.
Looking back at Nashville’s earlier rosters with Bob Boughner, Greg Johnson, or Mike Dunham, etc. you remember them in Predators’ uniforms and maybe even being instrumental in growing the game in Tennessee. But they played just as long, and in some cases, longer, with other NHL squads than the Predators. Casual hockey fans may relate some of these players to other teams more so than the Predators.
Although anyone born during the Predators’ inaugural season is now legally allowed to drink alcohol, it’s still not a whole lot of time in the sports world to develop a list of Hall of Fame-worthy players who would be slam dunk choices to have their jersey retired.
Transactions have also altered who may eventually see their number sit high above the ice. Take Shea Weber for example. When the big defenseman was playing in the Music City, the common consensus was that he was a stone-cold lock to have the honor of one day being the man of the hour during a pregame ceremony with his family to watch his No. 6 be slowly raised.
During the peak of his Predators’ career, Weber was considered as one of, if not, the best NHL defenseman. He played with an edge that the fans adored. He was a perennial All-Star and a three-time Norris Trophy finalist. But he also had as much impact off the ice as he did on it. Along with Rinne, Weber helped form the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund, which helps raise money for the Predators’ annual donation to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Of course, we all know what happened in the summer of 2016. Weber was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, breaking up his career that fans almost certainly thought was going to be spent with one team, the Predators. This doesn’t mean that one day Weber won’t have his jersey retired by the Predators. His accomplishments can never be taken away. He’s also still loved in Nashville, perhaps just as much as he was during his Predators’ days. This is just to say, well, he is still playing and there’s no way that Rinne will not already have his number situated high in the rafters when Weber’s time comes if it does.
Rinne will be the first Predators player to have his jersey immortalized in the Bridgestone Arena. He will also be the first true Predators player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Yes, technically Peter Forsberg once played for the Predators, but he suited up for all of 22 games. Paul Kariya is closer, but in reality, he only played two seasons in Nashville. If you took those campaigns off his resume, his name would still be listed with the game’s other elites. Whereas Rinne built his Hall of Fame career solely while wearing a Predators’ uniform.
His stats and accolades speak for themselves: Four-time NHL All-Star, twice voted to the league’s year-end All-Star Team, including a First Team selection in 2017-18. Oh, and his career goals-against average (GAA) of 2.43? Well, that’s tied for the fourth-best mark among goaltenders with at least 350 wins in NHL history. The only goalies besting that mark are, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and Jacques Plante. That’s quite the elite company. There are only 12 netminders in NHL history to record at least 350 wins and 60 shutouts and Rinne is one of them. Eight of the goaltenders in that group are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. That’s why we can be confident Rinne’s nomination is coming.
This is what the team wants the Predators’ Way to be known as and, ultimately, to be. Hard work is great, but it must pay off. Rinne made sure that current and future players can look at the work ethic associated with the team’s mantra and see it as the foundation, if not even the direct cause of monumental success.
Great Hockey Player, Better Person
Facts and figures are probably the go-to when it comes to discussing the Finnish goaltender. However, that’s the thing about sports – sometimes to its detriment – we often feel the need to have measurable and tangible data in order to assess a player. Rinne obviously ticks all the boxes when it comes to numbers. But his career also goes far beyond that. He embodies another facet of what the Predators’ Way should be known as.
Bob Marley once said, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
As soon as the news broke regarding Rinne’s retirement, current and former teammates flooded to social media to try and put into words what the Predators legend has meant to them.
“You have been a role model since the first day I walked into the locker room in Nashville, and to this day you still are,” Filip Forsberg said in part via Instagram. “You’ve showed up every day with a smile on your face and been the hardest working guy on the team.”
Former Predators forward, Austin Watson also took time to speak to the type of person Rinne is.
“You[r] compete level is second to none. On top of your career on the ice, what I believe is truly remarkable is the human that you are. The most humble, selfless and kind man I’ve played with.” Watson also went on to say in his social media post, “Lots of people say they care about others above themselves, Peks you just do it and it can be felt, not heard.”
So, as much as he’s had an effect on the hockey record books, he’s probably impacted more lives. Finding someone who doesn’t like Rinne may be harder than the average joe scoring on the lovable goalie’s glove side.
As a parting gift, Rinne sat down and put his feelings and experiences into words, publishing a piece in The Players’ Tribune. In an article titled, “Thank You, Nashville” he chronicled his journey from Finland to Nashville, making sure to thank all those who’ve helped him along the way and mention just what they mean to him. As he wrapped up his piece he said, “I hope that after all these years, you could see from the stands that all I ever wanted was to be a great teammate and a player who gave everything for the city he loved.”
Well, Pekka, mission accomplished!
I graduated from Mount Royal University with a degree in Journalism with the hopes to pursue a career in sports media. I have been following hockey for many years at various different levels. Whether playing, watching or writing about it, hockey has played a massive role in my life. I was the sports editor at The Calgary Journal as well as a sports columnist for The Calgary Reflector. Follow on Twitter: @A_Grant27