By Jim Diamond
Traditions in hockey run deep – not touching the Stanley Cup until you win it, not stepping on the team logo if it is on the floor of the team’s dressing room, and the starting goaltender always leading his team onto the ice. Well, almost always that is.
One of the unheralded, but still awesome traditions in hockey is the solo skate. Often reserved for a player’s first game or possibly his first NHL game played in his hometown if it happens to be an NHL city, the player’s teammates usually tell him that they want him to lead them onto the ice that night for the pregame warmup. And as they proceed to the door leading to the rink, the first player steps on while his 19 teammates put the brakes on and allow him a little alone time.
Nashville’s 19-year-old rookie Samuel Girard played his first career game Tuesday night, so his teammates made sure the Bridgestone Arena faithful got a good look at the Roberval, Quebec native without the distraction of any other players skating near him.
Girard had an inkling of what his teammates were up to, but like a good rookie, he accepted the honor bestowed upon him and took a couple of laps around the Nashville zone before Pekka Rinne and the other Predators joined him.
“It was special,” Girard said. “I remember my first year in junior, I was doing the same thing on the ice, maybe one or two laps. It was fun. It’s normal – it’s my first game in the NHL and everybody does that in his first NHL game, so I was prepared for that.”
Following the game, Rinne pointed to Scott Hartnell as the ringleader of Tuesday’s skate.
“I think it was number 17 who was kind of pulling for that,” Rinne said with a smile. “I was all for it. That was awesome, keep the tradition going for the rookies.”
Girard looked solid in his debut. Maybe it was the extra ice time he received prior to the start of the game.