Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on the Skate of the Union

For the first time in more than two months, Bridgestone Arena was abuzz with hockey. Granted, no game was being played, but the 3rd annual Skate of the Union provided fans with their much needed hockey fix before the commencement of a long, two month wait leading up to training camp. While no one is looking forward to nothing but baseball for the next two months (yikes), today left many fans with a sense of anticipation with the upcoming season on the horizon.

Outside of the equipment sale, autograph session, and festivities that occurred throughout the day, a town hall meeting culminating with the unveiling of the new home jersey proved to be the main attraction, and it didn't disappoint.

Thoughts...

During his opening remarks, Poile referred to the Arnott trade last summer as "handing over the keys" to younger players on the roster, and referred to that phrase again when explaining the departures of Sully, Ward, and Dumont. With the leadership in the locker room potentially set for the next several seasons and numerous prospects in Milwaukee ready to make the jump to the big club, the Preds could be poised to be a very solid team for the foreseeable future.

Many fans have shown disappointment in Poile for not acquiring a top six forward to help fix the offensive woes. Poile defended his forwards in his remarks, especially the younger ones, naming off players such as Wilson, Kostitsyn, Hornqvist, and Bergfors, citing their ages, and stating that none of them had reached their full potential. Nashville's roster during the playoff run last season was young, and will be even moreso once October rolls around. If one or two of these young players can hit their stride and/or consistently contribute on the scoresheet next season, perhaps the talks of obtaining a top six forward will die down a little. With youth comes growing pains, and Poile is asking the fanbase for some patience.

Barry Trotz was outstanding when he spoke, heaping loads of praise on the fanbase whenever possible, and mixing in a little humor for good measure. His little rant on lame mascots sent a roar of laughter through the audience.

Tom Ciggaren, Jeff Cogen and Sean Henry touched on topics that either don't understand or can't expand on, but the one topic that was brought up was the need to continue developing Bridgestone Arena into one of the best venues in the world. They stated that renovations and upgrades to the arena were in the works, as believed the fans deserve no less than the best when they attend a game or concert. With the expected completion of the convention center expected in 2013, the potential to host an All-Star game would increase, which was well received by those in attendance.

One fan asked if there was a chance that Milwaukee could play a game in Nashville. The question surprised Cogen, who said it wasn't on any list, but after hearing the crowd's response, it would make it to a list. I wonder if more college hockey games are in the works...

I love how our organization and fanbase is embracing Atlanta and their fans who suddenly are without a team, leading to the coolest moment of the meeting came during the Q&A segment. As members of the audience were asking questions to the panel, one guy, a former Thrashers fan in Nashville on vacation, took a microphone and proclaimed himself a free agent fan, essentially asking the panel to give him reasons to become a Preds fan instead of hopping over to Carolina. Trotz stepped in and gave an accurate description of both cities level of "fun", Gnash strolled over and placed a gold hat on the prospective fan's head, and the crowd gave him a rousing standing O. Beat that, Carolina.

At long last, the revealing of the new home jersey had arrived. The audience was directed outside onto the plaza. On the side of the AT&T "Batman" building hung a banner placed only days before. Underneath was another banner, revealing the much-anticipated gold jersey. When photos of the potential home jersey were leaked three weeks ago, a small part of me cringed at how bright the jersey looked, but that feeling was offset by the understanding that Nashville was trying to step outside the norm and begin forming an identity. Upon seeing the gold sweaters in person, I'm thrilled with how they look. They look sharp with the new logos, adding a little more anticipation to the upcoming season.

Yesterday's SOTU was a great success. The Preds are in great hands with the ownership group, have a GM and coach who have been here since Day 1, and have a tremendous fanbase that is only getting bigger. The future is very bright in Smashville.

If you'd like to watch the town hall meeting for yourself, Buddy Oakes of PredsOnTheGlass recorded the entire session and uploaded it to his blog. You can find it here

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