By Jim Diamond
As part of their annual community relations day, Nashville Predators players and staffers made many different stops at several area locations Thursday.
With a van load of street hockey gear and players Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg in tow, they turned a cul-de-sac in the Cheswicke Farm subdivision of Franklin into a street hockey rink for close to 50 young players. All equipment used at the visit was donated through the NHL Street program and the Nashville Predators Street Pride program.
Growing up in Sweden, the players said that they enjoyed playing road hockey when they had the chance.
“It feels like yesterday almost, (but) it’s probably been 15 years since I did it now,” Ekholm said. “Great times, awesome place here, a lot of kids, and it was a lot of fun.”
Ekholm sported a backwards Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap Thursday afternoon.
With unseasonably warm temperatures reaching the high 80s and wearing their Predators gold jerseys, the players got quite a workout running around with the kids for an hour.
“It was really hot out there, so I got really sweaty out there. It will be a good shower when I get back,” Forsberg said. “There are a lot of Preds fans all over the Nashville area. We really enjoy doing this.”
Just 20-years-old, Forsberg is not that far removed from his days of playing street hockey as a kid.
Even after a tough two-hour long practice with their teammates earlier in the day Thursday, Ekholm and Forsberg still had plenty of energy to run around and play with the large gathering of kids.
“You are fortunate to do what you do all day,” Ekholm said. “Spend an hour out here is great for us just giving back and being around kids and get the energy from them. It’s awesome.”
After the street hockey ended, the players sat down to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the kids and many of the parents as well, not stopping until all had their time with the pair of Swedes.
The Predators should be applauded for both the number and the frequency of the charitable and community appearances that they make all over the Nashville area each year. The Predators introduce their players to the community relations side of being a professional athlete from the start of their time in Nashville, which for many is the annual development camp held right after the NHL’s Entry Draft.