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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.12.2014 / 3:37 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

What a jolt! Terry Crisp and I were busy attending to our coverage of the Predators’ game at Ottawa on FOX Sports Tennessee Monday night. Then, I noticed a twitter report that there had been a disturbance on the Dallas Stars’ bench at the American Airlines Center.

Still concentrating on our game, more reports followed. In a commercial break, TSN’s Gord Miller was nice enough to come over and write out a note for us, telling us that “the disturbance” involved ex-Predator Rich Peverley.

As the news came in that Rich (who got his NHL start with Nashville/Milwaukee in 2005) had been stabilized and was conversant, my mind raced back to November 21, 2005.

That was a night Terry and I will never forget. We were on the air from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Greg Johnson had scored an early goal to put the Predators up, 1-0, on the Red Wings.

It wasn’t long thereafter that the whole tone of the evening changed. Confusion reigned supreme, click here to watch.

As you can see, all we knew was that a player was down, not the identity of the player, nor what the problem.

That makes it extremely difficult to report, but reporting instincts must take over. No opinions, no speculation should be offered at time like that. You can’t force the issue if you are on the air at times (unfortunately, I now must use the plural form here) like that. You simply must wait for the facts, or some visual evidence. All we knew was that the game had been stopped and that someone was in danger. The YouTube video demonstrates the professionalism of the Red Wings’ TV duo of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond. As a matter of fact, I had been on the scene in Buffalo in 1989 when goaltender Clint Malarchuk was cut and was spurting blood all over the ice in the Aud.

Ultimately, a camera between the benches provided us with the most basic information. It was Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer who was down. The team doctor was shown compressing Fischer’s chest.

Now we know Fischer’s heart had stopped and that he was unable to resume his playing career. In the interim, we could clearly see two hockey teams in almost total shock and dismay, not to mention the fans. No ruling had come down yet as to the disposition of the game.

For roughly 45 minutes on the air, all we could do was recapitulate what we had come to know, adding knowledge as time proceeded. We did an interview with Captain Greg Johnson downstairs and the shock on his face was evident. The will to play clearly had left both rooms that night.

Finally, everyone was told to go home, with a 1-0 Predators’ lead on the scoreboard. Many days after that, the announcement came: from what was to have been a home-and-home with Detroit would become consecutive games involving the two at Joe Louis Arena the following January 23rd and 24th, with 60:00 on the clock for each, but the Predators holding a 1-0 lead in the first game. (Greg Johnson’s goal didn’t become “official” until that time).

The Predators would sweep that January series and that helped them on their way to their first 100-point-plus season. They finished with 106 points and the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

It seems almost fateful that we interviewed Greg Johnson that night. We had no idea that he was playing his twelfth (seventh with the Predators) and final NHL season at that point.

That following summer, Greg signed as a free agent to return to Detroit, but a training camp physical that September revealed that he suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. At that point, he decided to retire.

So as the news was coming out Monday night, my thoughts were not only with Rich Peverley. I was also thinking about the Stars’ simulcast crew of Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh, as well as Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge on Blue Jackets’ TV and Bob McElligott calling it on Columbus radio. Each of them did a great job, in the tradition of Jim McKay at the 1972 Munich Olympics, or Al Michaels at the 1989 “Earthquake World Series.”

McKay, after covering the Israeli hostage tragedy in Munich, received a note from a former CBS colleague, which read: “Today you honored yourself, your network and your industry. -- Walter Cronkite."

I am concerned for Rich Peverley, a hard-working player who made it to the NHL and was able to hoist the Stanley Cup as part of the 2011 Boston Bruins. The reports of his health are positive.

I am also extremely proud to be a part of this business, and the instincts that have been displayed when extreme circumstances arise.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.25.2014 / 12:12 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

The unanticipated happened. I don’t think anyone ever expects to get hit with a heart attack, but I was. And I am still here because of an incredibly fortunate confluence of great timing, location, and most importantly, people.

The morning of the Predators’ next-to-last game before the Olympic break, I got up at 7 o’clock so I could get in a brief workout in the fitness center at the St. Paul Hotel. When I got up, I felt dehydrated, but I noticed the thermostat in my room read 85 degrees, so that explained that situation to me.

When I arrived at the workout room, I found I wasn’t able to get going on the elliptical, that I didn’t have much “oomph!” So, on to Plan B, the treadmill. As I moved across the room, I noticed I had a cold and clammy feeling. After about five minutes on the treadmill, I began to feel a tingling sensation along my jawline, and cut short the workout, concerned.

I returned to my room, showered and dressed with a bit of difficulty, then turned to this computer. I decided to do a Google search on the tingling jaw and saw that it may be a warning sign. We had a broadcast production meeting set to begin at 8:30 downstairs in the hotel coffee shop, and I made my way down there. This is where I had my first lucky contact with the “right people.”

Already seated were my broadcast partner of 15 years, Terry Crisp; our producer, David White; director John Tackett and Graphics Coordinator Brett Newkirk. From the looks on their faces, particularly Crispy’s, I could tell I didn’t look too good!

It wasn’t long before the purpose of the meeting was abandoned. John Tackett wisely obtained some aspirin from the front desk for me to take, and Brett Newkirk arranged for a car and accompanied me over to the Xcel Energy Center, where I would turn myself over to the experts.

Predators’ Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler and his assistant, D.J. Amadio were expecting me. When I arrived at one of the auxiliary dressing rooms, members of the Minnesota Wild Staff almost immediately joined them: Head Athletic Therapist Don Fuller, Assistant Athletic Trainer John Worley, and Massage Therapist Travis Green.

They began checking my blood pressure and respiration rate. I felt nauseous at the time, but fortunately, that was a passing sensation. Then they contacted the St. Paul Fire Department EMTs, who seemed to arrive almost instantaneously.

As this was going on, I thought to call (my wife) Claudia to let her know at least as much I knew. Finally I had to hand my phone to Brett, who was still with me.

The EMTs ran a couple of EKGs on me and very calmly packed me up and whisked me away to United Hospital, just blocks away from the rink.

They wheeled me directly to the Catheter Lab at the hospital, and that was when the reality of my situation really hit me. I wasn’t feeling any huge weight on my chest or really any pain, and I hadn’t at any point that morning. There was no time for reflection however. Within moments, I was introduced to Dr. Thomas Biggs. He asked me where I was from, and when I told him “Nashville,” he informed me he was educated at Vanderbilt!

I was being prepped for surgery during our conversation, which at least momentarily took my mind off just how cold it was in that operating room. I gave a nurse some information, including Claudia’s cell number, so she could be updated.

It may have been about 45 minutes in all, but I had an angioplasty performed and three stents put in one artery. I was aware of all the activity, though not quite sure what they were doing. All I can tell you is that I felt continuously better as the medical team progressed.

It wasn’t long before I was placed in the Intensive Care Unit on the third floor of the hospital and put in the great care of the nurses there: Susan Trejo, Lydia, Shana and Amanda. The physician checking on me there was Dr. Sara Murray, another calming influence.

For the balance of that afternoon until about 5:30, I was kept flat on my back. That was the way I greeted my visitors that afternoon. It wasn’t long before I began texting and tweeting to those who already had reached out to see how I was doing.

I had quite the parade of visitors. Crispy, Stu Grimson and Karin Housley (Phil’s wife and a state legislator in Minnesota) came in. Willy Daunic followed. Later, Wild broadcasters Tom Reid and Mike Greenlay (Mike had worked radio games with me during the Preds’ first season) appeared. Then Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper appeared with gifts – a toy frog from Mike and an “It’s a Girl!” balloon from Josh. That picture went out rather quickly via the Twittersphere.

Meanwhile, Claudia left her office very quickly and was on her way home to prepare to come up to the Twin Cities. Thankfully, the Predators’ Senior VP of Hockey Communications and Public Relations Gerry Helper and Senior Director of Broadcasting Bob Kohl were quickly on a conference call with her. They worked out her flight arrangements to the Twin Cities, removing that burden.

By the time Claudia arrived, I had greeted a number of visitors and had been tweeting and texting my good fortune that day. I was upright in a reclining chair, keeping open the lines of communication, and ready to watch that night’s game from the Xcel Energy Center.

Late the next afternoon, I was discharged from the hospital and the United Hospital Cardiology team transmitted my information to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where I underwent another procedure by Dr. Joseph Fredi the following Thursday.

There were many reasons to write this. One, I want everyone to understand that there is no “classic” type or symptom of a heart attack. I was really lucky, because of the good people around me, I received early care.

The other reason is so I can offer my thanks to the many people involved in my care and the follow-up to it. I have mentioned quite a few of them here. The response to my situation has been very humbling: gifts, cards, letters, e-mails, texts and social media let me know there were so many rooting for me.

Thanks to all of you and, now, let’s get back to the games!

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POSTED ON Friday, 01.24.2014 / 5:13 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

As this Western Canada trip began in Vancouver Wednesday night – it was clear that this had turned into an “Alumni Weekend.”

The first indication – at the hotel in Vancouver: Stu Grimson comes across Brent Gilchrist in the workout room. Gilchrist is working for an energy company in Vancouver.

Brent concluded his 17-year pro career with the Predators in 2002-03. Brent won a Stanley Cup with the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings, when they became the last team to repeat as Cup Winners. He broke in with Montreal and also played in Edmonton and for the Stars in both Minnesota and Dallas.

Then, the team arrives at Rogers Arena for Thursday morning’s skate. Who should be standing inside the entrance to the arena but Drake Berehowsky, who played for Nashville in the city’s first three seasons in the NHL. The former defenseman, who was a first-round pick of his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in 1990, also played with Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Phoenix.

Berehowsky then went into coaching, first as an assistant in the Ontario League with Barrie; then as an American Hockey League assistant with the Peoria Rivermen (2009-2012). His head coaching break came in the ECHL with Orlando last season, and now he is head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. Here is a link to that team's site: http://www.lethbridgehurricanes.com

Drake got his former coach, Barry Trotz to talk to his Hurricanes after the Predators’ morning skate.

Also Thursday morning, the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame was announcing its 2014 class of inductees in the Canucks’ media room at Rogers Arena. Among those on hand for the ceremonies was Cliff Ronning, the Predators’ leading scorer in the team’s early years (1998-2002). Cliff was a previous inductee of the BC Hall, and was pleased to see that one of this year’s honorees will be Shea Weber’s 2003-04 Memorial Cup Champion Kelowna Rockets in the team category. For that matter, the opposing goaltender in the Preds’ first NHL game, Kirk McLean (then with the Florida Panthers), was also announced as an honoree.

Cliff, who now is in the hockey stick business (www.basehockey.ca), was nice enough to spend some time with us on TV Thursday night during the second intermission. He was the first to play his 1000th NHL game in a Predators’ uniform.

Then yet another Predators alumnus was with the team as well, and on the bench, as Scott Nichol (with the team from 2005 – 2009) filled in for Lane Lambert, who stayed back in Nashville as his wife undergoes chemotherapy. Scott is now the Director of Player Development for the Predators.

All in all, the hockey world – particularly that corner filled with the Alumni of the Nashville Predators – grew closer together with the team on the road!

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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 10:30 AM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

Yesterday, Predators General Manager David Poile made a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. Bottom line, it was a forward, Matt Hendricks, sent to Edmonton for a goaltender, Devan Dubnyk. It really was much more than that.

For the fan, there is the “Fantasy” or “Rotisserie League” aspect of the move. It becomes a matter there of getting the numbers you want and sometimes giving up the numbers your trading partner is seeking. This type of thinking has been with us since the 1960’s and has gotten to the point where your friends may have developed complicated spreadsheets to govern their moves.

Something else needs to be considered – the human element.

Matt Hendricks, who was born in Minnesota 32 years ago, grew up and went through college there. He is married to Kimberley. They have twins: Gunnar and Lennon. He was drafted by the Predators in 2000, but has played for ten professional teams since leaving St. Cloud State in 2004. Edmonton will be his fourth NHL stop, following Colorado, Washington and Nashville. That’s a lot of moving! Thankfully, the twins won’t turn three until November, so they haven’t had to switch schools, but that isn’t all that far off into the future!

Devan Dubnyk will be 28 in May, and is from Regina, Saskatchewan. After finishing his junior career with Kamloops in 2006, he made three minor league stops before joining Edmonton. He told reporters in Alberta yesterday that the trade shocked him – the first time he has experienced one. Now he is faced with the need to make a sudden move as well. On top of that, he can be an unrestricted free agent at the end this summer, perhaps meaning yet another move for him.

David Poile has spoken about his early years in the business. His dad was an NHL player and was GM of both the expansion Philadelphia Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks. David was brought up in the game, and played collegiately at Northeastern University in Boston.

He got his first break in hockey management as an assistant to Cliff Fletcher, then GM of the Atlanta Flames, who opened for business in 1972. David would tell the story of how he would conjure up potential trades and present them to Fletcher, who then would talk about the human element discussed here.

Yes, it is much easier to make a “Fantasy League” trade. There is very little in terms of a human consequence there. Consider that the next time you read about a trade!

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POSTED ON Monday, 12.09.2013 / 2:00 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

Yesterday was a special day in the history of the Nashville Predators, a team born in 1998. They made the trip from Washington D.C. to New York City via train – a special Metroliner into Penn Station, before bussing to their hotel near Central Park.

From the time the National Hockey League was founded in 1917 with four members – the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Arenas, the League moved about primarily by train.

The lone documented deviation from that happened in 1935, when the management of the New York Rangers decided the best way to handle a trip back-and-forth to Toronto would be by air. Since the Rangers lost at Maple Leaf Gardens, they decided to go back to the rails.

With a League that spread from Boston to Chicago, this was workable. Also consider that when the League began, there was more time for travel, as teams were scheduled for just 22 games. Later, it was expanded to 44 games, later 50, and then 70 game schedules were played from 1949 through 1967.

Many are the stories of traveling by train from the veterans of the game who played in that era. The post-game scrambles to get from the rink to the train station and the special cars reserved for them are a frequent topic. The home-and-home series between Boston and New York, Montreal and Chicago, and Toronto and Detroit bring back the memories of those who lived through those times.

This continued until the League’s “Great Expansion” of 1967, when it doubled in size to twelve teams. In search of a better U.S. television contract, the NHL extended itself into Los Angeles, Oakland, St. Louis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

While those expansion teams played within their own “Western Division” at the time, it was clear that train travel could no longer be the primary form of transportation. Like the other major sports, it was time to take to the air.

While today’s charter aircraft used by NHL teams are certainly comfortable and get teams to their destinations more quickly (at least when birds aren’t sucked into a jet engine), train travel is truly relaxing.

Teams based in the Eastern Corridor have gone by train. Yesterday, the Predators were able to take advantage of the opportunity and truly enjoyed it!

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.22.2013 / 3:34 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

I was in the seventh grade 50-years ago (I know some may think that I still am). Suddenly, the door to my classroom at Immaculate Heart of Mary School opened and the Principal, Sister Robert Ellen, stood there and asked to see me in the hall.

Unfortunately, this was not all that uncommon, but this was not for disciplinary reasons. She wanted to tell me, before it was announced on the school Public Address system, that the President had been killed.

She remembered me as a fourth grader who was excited to go on the campaign trail with my father and his friends in 1960. I wanted to believe that our country could elect a Catholic as president, that a hotline between the Vatican and the White House would not be installed, nor turn out to be the governing force of our country.

I will never forget that kindness. I was home soon, and was held spellbound by all the then state-of-the-art television news coverage for the rest of that day and the following three.

While the 1960 campaign for the presidency was on, I was fortunate enough, to accompany my dad in our family’s Studebaker convertible to pick up Bobby Kennedy from the Galesburg (Illinois) Airport and transport him to Knox College where he spoke about his brother’s qualifications at Beecher Chapel. That likely would not happen today without a Secret Service screening.

Yes, 50 years have passed, but I cannot forget. We have since survived the assassinations of Martin Luther Kings Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and all the tumult that followed in 1968.

Then there were the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, as the Predators reported to their fourth training camp. However, as a nation, our innocence, or maybe better stated, our sense that "things like that don't happen here," all changed on November 22, 1963.

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POSTED ON Monday, 11.11.2013 / 12:27 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

This week, Terry Crisp is celebrating the lives of two of the most influential men in his life. Today, the focus is on his coaching mentor. For the balance of the week, he mourns the passing of his father.

Terry will miss the final two broadcasts from the team’s longest-ever road trip, as his father, Nesbeth Arthur Crisp, passed away at the age of 91 last Friday in Capreol, Ontario. Memorials will be held throughout this week.

Today in Toronto, the man who gave Terry his start as a coach – Fred Shero – will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Shero first coached Terry with the Calder Cup Champion Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League in 1970-71. Shero initially saw Terry playing for the Minneapolis Bruins in the early 1960’s, while Shero was coaching in St. Paul. Obviously, he saw something he liked.

Two years later, following their brief time together in the American League, they were reunited. On March 4, 1973 -- the NHL trade deadline – the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Crispy from the expansion New York Islanders. It was one of those cliché deals that helped both teams. The Islanders received defenseman Jean Potvin (older brother of future Hall of Famer Denis). That helped the Islanders to sign Denis and keep him away from the World Hockey Association.

Meanwhile, Shero and the Flyers got Crispy for his penalty killing and faceoff skills. That also helped Terry win his first two Stanley Cups, as they took the title in both 1974 and 1975. Shero made sure to have him on the ice to win the final faceoffs securing the 1974 Cup victory.

When Terry retired as a player in 1977, he wanted to stay in the game. Shero hired him as his assistant coach on the Flyers. While Shero left Philadelphia to become head coach of the New York Rangers in 1978, Terry remained there for another season, before moving on to be a head coach with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for six seasons in the Ontario League.

That prepared him for two seasons in the American Hockey League as a head coach in Moncton, then three seasons with the Calgary Flames. It was with Calgary where he won his third Stanley Cup ring, and the night before the final series opened with the Montreal Canadiens, he called his mentor, Fred Shero.

Terry has never forgotten him. He mentions him regularly. In Toronto, he will celebrate Shero’s posthumous induction (Shero passed away in 1990). Joining him will be members of Shero’s family (including son Ray, now General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins) and the Flyers’ family, including captain Bobby Clarke.

Terry’s own family will be with him in Northern Ontario, celebrating the man who instilled in him the incredible work ethic that helped him to a long playing and coaching career.

Terry has told the story of his dad taking him to the train station when he was 16, giving him a $5-dollar bill to get started on his hockey adventure in St. Marys, Ontario.

It has been an adventure that many would envy, and Crispy knows it was made possible by his dad, and it’s never easy to say good-bye to your dad.

Listen to Terry talk about Shero here.

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POSTED ON Monday, 11.04.2013 / 4:39 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

This long-awaited book by arguably hockey’s greatest defenseman/player of all time is solid. It is not as spectacular as Orr was on the ice, but then again, how could it possibly be?

This is the man who brought offense to the defense, and gave meaning to the term “possession game.” After all, rarely did Bobby Orr lose the puck, and what he would do with it was often breath taking.

The unfortunate thing was the length of his career: 657 games, roughly the equivalent of eight NHL seasons. He turned in six seasons with more than 100 points, and he took home lots of hardware.

He was the first defenseman to lead the league in scoring, and did it twice. He won the Norris Trophy as top defenseman eight times, was the Hart Trophy (MVP) three times, was playoff MVP (Conn Smythe Trophy) twice. To me, the most incredible stat you can attach to his name is the +124 he registered in 1970-71, when he also posted 102 assists!

As a hockey fan, the only time Bobby Orr ever disappointed me was in November of 1978, when he announced his retirement from the Chicago Blackhawks – just before I was to broadcast an LA Kings game in Chicago. So I never got to broadcast a game he played.

This book is not a tell-all. He does not spend a great deal of time on the man who defrauded him in his contract dealings, Alan Eagleson, writing “I didn’t want his name strung through the fabric of this book.” Orr added that Eagleson turned his trust into “something foul and regrettable.”

Orr gives all the background of his childhood in Parry Sound, Ontario (also the hometown of Predators’ broadcaster Terry Crisp) and his recruitment by Wren Blair and the Boston Bruins at an extremely young age.

His feelings for his teammates are made clear, and his thrill of being part of something special with the late-1960’s and early 1970’s Bruins are evident.

The theme that continuously appears is his passion for hockey and how he is grateful for the people who allowed him to play it the way he enjoyed it most. He took the chances that yielded spectacular results. There was nothing conservative about his game.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is “State of the Game.” Orr doesn’t like the changes that have made defensemen targets of forecheckers today, bearing down on the defensemen as they retrieve the puck and nailing them. He expresses his opinions on how youngsters should play and develop their games – and a great deal of that involves parental involvement.

Because the insights in this book are from (at the least) one of the greatest players or defensemen to ever play the game, it is worthy reading. If you have a great hockey fan on your holiday gift list, I whole-heartedly recommend it.

Purchase "Orr: My Story" here.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.02.2013 / 11:21 AM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

It was thirteen years ago that the Predators opened their season in Japan with two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. What similarity did that team have to the current edition of the Predators?

Scott Hartnell, the team’s first round draft pick that year made the team out of training camp at 18 years of age. Until this season, when Seth Jones made it as well, Hartnell was the only Nashville entry draft selection to start the season “with the big club.”

The trip to Japan was finalized during the previous season as the Predators, who won 28 games, were evidently set to be the “Washington Generals” against the Pittsburgh Penguins, or “Harlem Globetrotters.” For a glimpse at how the series of two games was promoted in Japan, check out this story from the Japan Times.

Even the ESPN Promotional announcements took on the same flavor, if not Red Klotz’s Washington Generals, the Predators were being treated like Rodney (“I don’t get any respect”) Dangerfield.

That Penguins team was without owner Mario Lemieux at the time (though he would make a successful comeback in December), but it was packed with offensive talent: Jaromir Jagr (who would lead the league in scoring with 121 points), along with Alexei Kovalev, Martin Straka and Robert Lang, each of whom had 80 or more points.

When owner Lemieux got back in his skates, he tallied 76 points in just 43 games and that Penguins team made it to the Eastern Conference Final, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils.

Contrast that to the Predators, who would rank 28th offensively and 7th defensively. Cliff Ronning led the team with 62 points. Scott Walker was tops with 25 goals. Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun split team duties in goals.

Had that trip been scheduled for the fall of 2001, it is highly unlikely it ever would have been made, so soon after the September 11th attacks on the United States.

The two games were the first major events held at the Saitama Super Arena, an incredibly versatile facility that can be used as either an indoor arena or outdoor stadium. Depending upon configuration, it can seat between 5,000 and 37,000 people.

As things developed, Cliff Ronning scored the first goal in the building and the Predators took the first game, 3-1. The Penguins won the second game by the same score. While ESPN carried the telecasts, Terry Crisp and I had the radio call, with the faceoffs coming shortly after midnight Nashville time (there was a 15-hour time difference, so some of us wore two watches, one on Japan time, the other on Central time.)

It was an incredible training camp and season opener for the Predators. The Predators had Japanese defenseman Yujiro Nakajimaya in their camp. “Yuji” played for the Kukodo Bunnies of the Japanese League, and would turn 30 shortly after the conclusion of the trip.

Acting as a de facto ambassador of Japanese hockey, he played in a pre-season game in Nashville.

He was small even for the Predators’ team at the time, at 5-10 and weighing around 150 pounds. He then accompanied the team back to his native Japan and was given a thunderous ovation by the fans at the Saitama Arena.

It was an incredible trip for the entire traveling party, visiting the Ginza in Tokyo and some took in Japanese baseball games as well.

The Penguins and Predators flew back to North America together, from Tokyo’s Norita Airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul before parting ways. All in all, it was 14 hours in the air again, crossing the International Dateline, and an exhausted group slowly deplaned at Nashville International Airport.

After about five days were allowed for recovery, the Predators opened with home games on back-to-back nights, beating Washington and Carolina, to start the season 3-1.

Yes, all of that with an 18-year old rookie in the line-up. 13 years later, Scott Hartnell has done alright playing 875 games!

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 1:20 PM
By Pete Weber - Nashville Predators / Pete Weber's Hockey Blog

Twelve years ago – the memories are still so powerful.

Yes, British troops once set fire to the White House, and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, but this was entirely different. It was an attack of undetermined origin, at the time, on U.S. soil. It is something that will remain on the minds of all who lived through it.

I remember where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Five years later were the double tragedies: the fatal shooting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles. Those instances provoked mourning.

The 9/11 attacks were also accompanied by shock and disbelief. We could see the bodies flying out of the Twin Towers and the video of the second plane going into the World Trade Center was replayed so often, it took on the quality of a horror movie.

Personally, I was driving into the arena, as it all unfolded. It was training camp check-in day for the Predators, about to begin their fourth season.

Hopes were high heading into that year. The team had just completed its first 80-point season. The four-team NHL expansion was now complete, as Atlanta had played two seasons, while Columbus and Minnesota had just completed their first. Ray Bourque had won his Stanley Cup, playing for the Colorado Avalanche.

As I drove in, I was tuned into WNSR Radio in Nashville. Steve Selby and Ron Bargatze were on the air, as I was hoping to catch up on the baseball scores, updating the races. It didn’t take long before my attention to those matters would be totally distracted.

“There’s a report that an airplane has collided with the World Trade Center in New York,” Selby announced. I turned up the volume, and it seemed like moments later when Steve said: “and now an airliner has crashed into the other tower!”

That was when all of us realized that this was no accident. I quickly tried to reach some of my New York friends by cell phone, but communications were already difficult. Shortly thereafter, I pulled into the garage at the rink and went down to the player check-in area.

I will never forget looking slack-jawed at the television downstairs, when 20-year-old Martin Erat walked in, looked at me and said: “I guess this means war?” That was the first time that thought had entered my mind! A young native of the Czech Republic had a far better grasp on the situation than I did.

As the day went on, we learned of another airliner crashing into the Pentagon, and then United Flight 93, forced by passengers to crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The shock and horror of that day seemed to have no end, and it echoes to this day.

Three months later, the Predators got an up-close look at this example of “Man’s Inhumanity to Man.” The Predators had a mid-December game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. The team chartered a special bus to take us to Ground Zero. Never have I been with a group of that size which instantly when silent.

Captain Tom Fitzgerald told the story of his father on 9/11, traveling from Boston into New York, and walking to the World Trade Center for a meeting as the towers came tumbling down. He lucked out by timing. There were many who did not.

As we were escorted on our walk around the site, embers were still burning. There was a stench to the atmosphere. Dust was all around. It turned out that more bodies were discovered that December day. The bus was just as quiet heading back to the hotel as it was entering Ground Zero.

That experience gave us the sense of what many have experienced around the world in other war-torn areas. The terrorists got the attention of the whole world on 9/11, and the thought of another such attack will likely be with us forevermore.

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