On Saturday night, when the Predators came from behind to beat Winnipeg 4-3 in the first meeting ever by teams from the two cities, three Predator players took to the ice wearing the "Predator Gold" for the first time on home ice as a Nashville Predator.
All three came from different backgrounds but described their first game in front of the home crowd as "great," "incredible" and "awesome."
In comparison to the crowds down the stretch and in the playoffs last season, the preseason crowd of 14,701 was actually rather timid. There were no TV time out standing ovations or other patented Bridgestone antics that the crowds are known for.
Section 303 was definitely in preseason form and failed to pick up on the obvious minute long chant of "Goo-Goo, Goo-Goo, Goo-Goo..." for the newly announced "Goo-Goo Minute" where every fan in the arena would receive a Goo-Goo Cluster if the Preds score in the final minute of the second period.
Hopefully, they'll be on the stick by the next game on Wednesday night.
All that being said, the new guys were impressed and loved playing at Bridgestone Arena.
Zack Stortini became a crowd favorite with a fight early in the game and drawing a double minor that set up the game tying and game winning goal. He was excited in his first home game as a Predator (audio clip). "It was great. There was a lot of energy in the building and the fans did a good job of supporting us. It was great to get the first one in here. It was a great team win."
A totally different perspective came from Mattias Ekholm (audio clip), who has only played in front of fans in Europe. "It was a real fun game for me to be first time here in front of the home fans. It was pretty incredible... a loud arena."
The size of the rink was a huge difference for the young defenseman. "I’m not used to this kind of arena in Sweden, so it was a lot of fun. It was eight thousand or so but it was never full and here it’s double at least, so it was really fun."
Ekholm is still learning to play on the smaller North American rink but is learning more every day. "It’s been a little bit of a transition for me over the last couple of weeks but I’m getting into it more and more."
He has been to Tennessee three times for development camp and really seems to be fitting in well in a Smashville lifestyle. "I like the town. It’s not that big a town where you have to go two hours early to get to the rink. I’ve been downtown a little and to Green Hills Mall and get around some so it’s coming."
Jack Hillen (Audio clip) has been to Nashville before but never as one of the good guys. "It was great. I thought the crowd was awesome. There were great fans that were really in to it. I played here once before with the Islanders and that was a great crowd as well back then."
There's nothing better than a win to make the first game special. "It was a good game for us. We started off slow and built on it and got better in the second and third."
From all appearances, Hillen and Teemu Laakso may be the heir apparent to the Predators' third defensive line pairing. They played together on Friday in Carolina and also on Saturday against the Jets.
Hillen likes the pairing with Laakso. "I thought we had great chemistry. I’m back for the puck and he’s in a good position to give me an out and vice versa. I enjoyed playing with him. He’s more stay at home and I like to roam so it works well."
After a much needed day off on Sunday, the players that remain in camp will practice in two groups at Centennial Sportsplex today from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass