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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sportaholic Insider Special: The Nashville Predators, new season new attitude

I had the pleasure of attending the Nashville Predators first pre-season game and interviewing Christian Parker, Exeecutive Vice president Chief Sales & marketing Officer of the Nashville Predators. Nashville welcomed the Winnipeg Jets, formally the Atlanta Thrashers in their home pre-season debut. The Jets also had a number of familiar faces from the Predators as most fans will remember former goalie Chris Mason back to Smashville. After catching the first period I met with Parker and Jessica Jones to get the inside scoop on all things Predators including the team’s new jerseys, the importance of Blake Geoffrion, and what Atlanta’s move to Winnipeg means for Nashville.

However, the first thing I have to speak upon is the game itself. This was my second Preds game, my first one being back a couple of years ago. It was like I was rekindling my hockey passion as the crowd was electric and responsive for a pre-season game. Fans chanted and sang all game long and as the Preds scored multiple goals in the second, honky tonk had Bridgestone Arena rocking. The funniest part of the game may have been the mascot Gnash serenaded the former Atlanta fans as Ray Charles’s classic Georgia blared out the loud speakers. The halftime show feature t-shirts giveaways coming via the T-shirt launcher, as they were chucking shirts all over the arena. There was also the hamster ball race that pitted two young Pred fans against one another. Tim McGraw’s “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it” blasted from the PA as Sergei Kostitsyn, Martin Erat, and Patric Horqvist scored consecutive power-play goals. The fans of Nashvile showed why they are some of the best in the league most stayed to the ending of the game to show their appreciation to the home team. I enjoyed every second of the game and can’t wait until the next time I will be in attendance.

After the first period, I stepped back into Predators central office and spoke with Parker and Jones.

For those who are not familar with him, here is a bit of Christan Paker's background via the Nashville Predators team page on

Now entering his third full season with the Predators/Bridgestone Arena, Executive Vice President/Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Chris Parker has led the effort to secure partnerships with some of Nashville’s – and the nation’s – most respected and recognizable companies since being promoted to his current title on March 1, 2009. During the 2009-10 season, Parker directed the organization’s efforts to secure Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations Inc., as the new arena naming rights partner. Additionally, he was instrumental in adding the likes of Patron Spirits Company, whose name is now on the Arena’s Suite Level Restaurant, the Ford Motor Company/Mid-South Ford Dealers, Comcast, and Nashville based entities Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Daily’s Convenience Stores and Mars Pet Care.

Parker also led the organization’s efforts to secure a new long-term television rights agreement with FOX Sports Tennessee/Sports South. The agreement, which increases the number of telecasts, is also the most lucrative in franchise history. On the ticket sales front, Parker initiated a restructuring effort that resulted in the creation of an inside sales team and a fan relations group more focused and dedicated on the needs of existing ticket holders.

A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in sports management and communications, Parker began his sports career with the International Hockey League head office in suburban Detroit.

Parker resides in Nashville and serves on several philanthropic boards and committees including the Alumni Advisory Board of the Division of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, as Vice Chairman of the Bernard P. “Pat” Maloy Endowed Scholarship at Michigan and the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee.

Sportaholic: What was the idea behind the changing of the Predators uniforms?

Parker: We wanted to make an iconic symbol for the Nashville Predators. The head crest of the Predators has become synonymous with the Predators and we just wanted to enhance it. The original crest had around 11 different colors in it and we wanted to simplify it. As far as the jerseys are concerned, the color scheme used by the Preds is used by multiple teams in the league and we wanted to make Nashville’s logo one of a kind. (Laughs) Who can forget the mustard color jerseys? When you think of teams like the Red Wings you automatically think of their Red Wings on their jersey, so with the crest on the Preds jersey I think we are establishing our own iconic team identity.

New Preds Crest

Old Preds Crest

Sportaholic: How important is a guy like Blake Geoffrion to this team’s grass movement?

Parker: Blake is just a great story. He is a fourth generation hockey player right here from middle Tennessee. We as an organization have to be careful to allow him to develop as a player and not overexpose him for the betterment of advertising purposes. He is important because he can connect the younger fans to our team. They have a person that they can relate to in the local community.

Sportaholic: How does the move of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise opened up the door for Nashville is this region?

Parker: As soon as the news was announced that they would be moving to Wnnipeg, we sent information to fans of that franchise. Atlanta had a hard core base of hockey that we as a franchise recognized. We want to tap that market and grow Nashville into a regional team, not just a local team. The NHL has rules on territories as far as team are involved, so we couldn’t get into that market until now. Atlanta is one of the top markets in the country and we intend on making our way into that region. Geographically speaking, we are the closet team to that city, closer than Carolina and Tampa so we have to take full advantage of those opportunities.

Sportaholic: You spoke of the grass root movement that you wanted to continue to build on one the earlier question, what steps are the Predators taking in that department and what could they do to improve it?

Parker: We believe that we are doing a number of things to intiate the movement of hockey in Nashville. The get out and move program focuses on getting young players involved. We are tyring to get young players into roller hockey as much as we can. As you and I did when we were young playing basketball and football, we are trying to familiarize young players with the game as much as possible. Name recogniaiton plays a big part as well as we have guys like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne who many of our fans know well.

Sportaholic: When I travel to different places in the country, I’m always asked the question about how Tennessee holds on to their coaches i.e Jeff Fisher and Barry Trotz. How do believe the continuity of having a staff in place for such a long time helps the Preds?

Parker: I believe Predators fan and Tenneseans as a whole can appreciate the longevity of Coach Trotz, GM David Polie and Brent Pederson. They have brought a certain level of contunity to our organzationn that you don’t see in sports franchises these days.

I would like to thank Jessica Jones for providing me with great seats for the game and Christian Parker for the great interview. Jessica also reiterated that she is a big Predators fan herself and one of her best friends is a Red Wings fans to which surprised me that they are still good friends with the way that rivalry goes. I also thank my colleague Ashley Danielle for her help in this process as well. This is the first of many inside stories from the Sportaholic and Noomizo covering the Nashville Predators. We congratulate the Preds as they seem to be a winning organization on and off the ice. They are building a franchise from the ground up as Christian reminded me this is just a 14 year old franchise. Compare that to a team like Montreal who has been in business for almost a century. Make sure to continue to check us out hockey fans as we promise to deliver the best local sports stories in middle Tennessee.

Editor's note: Here are some helpful links to connect with the Predators Get Out and Learn! (GOAL) intiative:

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