David Legwand couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride watching his former team’s tremendous run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Nashville Predators may have made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals this season, but 19 years ago the team made Legwand their first draft pick in team history, selecting the the Michigan native second overall in the 1998 draft.
He returned to the Plymouth Whalers the following season, but did play in one game during Nashville’s inaugural season in 1998-99. He went on to play nearly 1000 games with the team.
Legwand says they had to do what they could to help the fan base understand and enjoy the game, and boy did they ever.
“Obviously the first couple years there was interesting, explaining icings, offsides and all the rules, getting the fans familiar with the game,” says Legwand. “You look now, and it’s one of the rowdiest buildings in the league speaks volumes of the support the team has in Nashville, and the city has gone through a lot to keep the team there.”
He expects Vegas to go through some of the same learning curves during their first few seasons.
“In the early years we went through a lot of the stuff that Vegas is going to go trough. You need to put a competitive team out there, someone who is going to go out there and work every night, give the fans something to cheer for.”
“The team has a lot of guys who are fighting for their NHL lives, and a lot of those guys will get more of a chance with the Golden Knights then they’ve had with their previous teams.”
Nashville averaged 17,159 fans throughout the regular season, impressive considering the capacity at Bridgestone Arena is listed at 17,113.
Legwand admits it can take a bit for the fans to fully understand the game, but once they do it’s fairly rewarding. That’s what made Nashville’s recent run so special to him.
He got the witness it first hand, travelling to the city he use to call home for Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It’s a riot to watch a game down there, playing 15 years there was exciting for myself and my family. It’s an exciting city, this run is great for the team and organization, hopefully it’s a sign of things to come,” says Legwand. “It’s too bad it ended the way it did, but that Pittsburgh team is so strong. What they’ve been able to do, especially in the salary cap era, is so impressive.”
Nashville has been a fixture in the post season as of late. After missing the playoffs their first five seasons in the league, the Predators have only missed the playoffs three times since.
Legwand says he looks back fondly on his time with the franchise.
“It’s an honour to play somewhere that long, it doesn’t happen very often, especially with the team that drafted you,” says Legwand. “To put time into a city like that, and see hockey grow and the fans take to it like they have.”
Legwand still holds several franchise records as the Predators’ all time leader in game played (956), goals (210), assists (356) and points (566). He officially retired following the 2015-16 season, playing in 1136 career games, also playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres.
During his OHL days, he won the Red Tilson Award as the league’s most outstanding playing during the 1997-98 season, scoring 54 goals and 105 points in 59 games. He became only the second American born player to win the prestigious award.
In January 2015 Legwand, along with Derian Hatcher, bought the Sting from Rob Ciccarelli with plans of keeping the team in Sarnia.