The Nashville Predators haven’t had many true NHL stars don the blue and gold over the years. Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg were notable stars of yesteryear, but were past their prime while with the Preds. P.K. Subban might be the biggest national-scale star athlete the city has ever seen, but the relationship is still in its honeymoon phase.
Shea Weber and the Predators were married for 13 years – and when he was dealt to Montreal on June 29 in exchange for Subban, the Preds’ fan base was torn. Not because they felt it was an unfair trade; rather because Weber was a part of Nashville’s fabric. Hell, GM David Poile and company drafted him at Bridgestone Arena in 2003.
Tuesday, he returns to Nashville for the first time since the blockbuster trade that sent shockwaves across the NHL.
Amidst all the roster turnover through the years, Weber was the one constant. His booming slap shot and rugged defensive style manned the Nashville blue-line for 10-plus seasons alongside the likes of Kimmo Timonen, Ryan Suter and Roman Josi, in front of Pekka Rinne.
Weber’s number 6 may never be worn again. He captained the franchise to its first-ever playoff series win, thanks in part to a series-changing goal in Game 5 at Anaheim. He appeared in five All-Star Games – most in team history – including a Hardest Shot victory in Nashville last January. He was the Predators’ first homegrown superstar.
Where would this franchise be without him?
“I think this franchise would’ve been in a lot of trouble if not for Shea Weber,” Poile told The Tennessean.
Think of where Nashville was as a sports city when Weber was drafted in 2003; what the state of the Preds organization was in when he debuted in 2006. He was a pillar in making the city and organization what they are today.
We all remember the time he wound up from the point and goalie Carey Price ducked. And the time he slammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head against the glass in a tense playoff series. And the time he recorded the team’s first-ever hat trick from a defenseman.
Suter, Kariya, Steve Sullivan, Tomas Vokoun and many others made big contributions during their days with the Preds. None of them left the impact Weber did before getting shipped to Montreal.
Weber’s return to Nashville will surely be an emotional one. He deserves every second of the ovation he will receive from the Bridgestone Arena faithful. Despite not being a native of the city, you felt he was Nashville’s own.
Wearing a different jersey, walking into a different locker room on Tuesday doesn’t change that.