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The Nashville Predators' 2007-2008 season marks the tenth season in the history of the franchise. We're celebrating the occasion with a special section of our Web site, dedicated to revisiting the history of the organization. This section will grow with new features and interactive elements as the 10th Anniversary Season unfolds. (Note: Click the 10th Anniversary banner at the top of any page in this section to return to this index.)

This Month in Predators' History

Oct. 10, 1998
The Nashville Predators hosted the franchise's first NHL game vs. the Florida Panthers. In front of the sellout crowd of 17,298, Ray Whitney scored the only goal of the 1-0 game and the Panther's Kirk McLean earned the shutout.

Oct. 7-8, 1999
The Predators opened the 2000-01 season with a two-game series against the Penguins at the Saitama Super Arena outside of Tokyo, Japan.

Oct. 8, 2002
Greg Johnson was named the second captain in team history.

Oct. 8, 2004
After nearly 18 months of inactivity, the Predators returned to NHL action with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in front of a capacity crowd at the Sommet Center.

Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Cliff Ronning

By Kevin Wilson, Nashville Predators

The Predators first impactful offensive player in franchise history, Cliff Ronning came to Nashville via trade from Phoenix nine games into the 1998-99 season. When he left almost four seasons later, Ronning stood as the franchise’s leader in goals (81), assists (145) and points (226). He was also the team’s only 60-plus point player until Paul Kariya recorded 85 in 2005-06. Ronning retired from hockey following the 2003-04 season having amassed 869 regular-season points in 1,137 games for St. Louis, Vancouver, Phoenix, Nashville, Los Angeles, Minnesota and the New York Islanders.

Now, the Burnaby, B.C., native works as a hockey stick representative for Warrior Hockey in Vancouver.

“I am a pro rep for some teams, but am also in the research and development of making a better hockey stick,” Ronning said.

“The Rat,” as he was affectionately called in the Music City, also does some television work for his hometown Canucks, in addition to coaching his kids.
 
What are your fondest memories of Nashville?
The biggest thing was just the warmth of the people and the fans. Hockey is not a sport they grew up with, but they embraced it so quickly, and had a lot of passion for anyone who worked hard. If you worked hard, they could certainly appreciate you trying. The overall connection with the people – it is kind of like you have life-long friends even though you were only there for a short time.

What was the most exciting or unique parts about the teams you were on as a Predator?
“Our goal was always to get to the playoffs, and we obviously didn’t get there when I was there, but we were kind of up against the odds most nights and we weren’t expected to win. I have kind of fit into that underdog role all my life playing hockey – I was always too small. I thought our team competed very well and I think we played a very entertaining style of hockey that wasn’t boring to watch. For myself, I was there to help develop young talent, and now you see those guys doing real well. Guys like Kimmo Timonen have moved on and are making enormous amounts of money. If you could show them that if you work hard good things will happen, they would do it – I think that was kind of my role there, to show them how hard you have to work.”

Is there anyone who was on one of your Nashville teams that went on to surprise you with what they have accomplished in the league?
“I think the biggest thing is when someone like a Scott Hartnell, that was there coming in very young with their eyes wide open, was very excited. But, you have to teach people that you can be excited, you have to stay there by working hard, working after practice, and putting in the extra time. I really believe in the saying ‘hard work pays off.’”

Who were you closest to during your time on the team?
“I was at a stage in my career where I was a little older and a little more established, so I believe I was close to everybody. Maybe I was kind of a grandpa figure there. Guys like Tom Fitzgerald, Tomas Vokoun, Mike Dunham, Scott Walker and Greg Johnson were all great teammates, but I got along with everyone. That was the good thing about those teams – we had to rely on each other, so there were no cliques on the team, everyone ended up spending time together and I thought that was really special. You don’t get that often in professional sports.”

Is there any one on-ice moment that you remember from your time in Nashville?
“The biggest thing was when they gave me a reception on my 1,000th game. They let me bring my family out on the ice, and just the warm atmosphere in the building that night made it really enjoyable. Quite frankly, that might have been why I played the game – I enjoyed performing in front of people, but also getting the feedback if you were playing well or if you were playing bad, that was the thing about playing at that level. They also gave me a silver stick and a Murray go-kart with the Predators logo on it that my kids still bomb around on. So ultimately, it was the memories and getting to bring my family out there that was the biggest highlight.”

What part of the city did you miss most once you left?
“I was very fortunate to play a lot in Nashville, something that doesn’t always happen when you’re a professional athlete. The coaching staff treated me very well and gave me opportunities to be the best player I could be. Coach Trotz was all about effort and playing for the team when you were out on the ice, and I totally felt that philosophy would work all my life. So, I saw eye-to-eye with the coaching staff and never once had a problem with any of them. They were very accommodating to the entire team as long as you worked hard. Also, the trainers, especially Pete Rogers and his gang, were excellent and really took care of the veteran hockey player. It definitely made it easier for the older player to be there.”

How did you grow either professionally or personally during your time in Nashville?
“I think it was a great time of my life – when you are at a certain age, and your wife and kids love the town – that it was a place we could live the rest of our lives. It just came down to all the family being back in Vancouver. But, we still have great people we talk to back in Nashville. Just the city is one of those small-American feeling cities that gives you the feeling that you are very fortunate to live there.”


10th Anniversary Feature Archive:
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Greg Johnson
Flashback Feature: Most Impressive single-game offensive performances
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