Nashville is a football town. Nashville loves NASCAR. Nashville is Music City USA. But today, Nashville took one gigantic step forward towards confirming that it is a HOCKEY town.
The Nashville Predators have been in the NHL for 12 years. They haven’t won the Stanley Cup. The haven’t even made it past the first round of the playoffs. But they can claim a Hobey Baker Award winner. Blake Geoffrion, drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd round of the 2006 entry level draft, today became the first player from the Wisconsin Badgers to win the Hobey Baker Award. Football fans have the Hiesman Trophy. Hockey has the Hobey Baker Award given to the best player in college hockey. Who would have thought that Tennessee would have a Hobey Baker Award winner before it had a Heisman Award winner?
But this isn’t about Wisconsin, or even the Nashville Predators. This is about youth hockey in Nashville and the impact that the Predators have had in the area. This is about Blake Geoffrion, born and raised in Brentwood, Tennessee. Geoffrion already became the first player ever drafted into the NHL from Tennessee. When you think about the hot beds of hockey in the US, you don’t think of Tennessee. You think of all the players that have come out of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, and throughout the Northeast.
By winning the Hobey Baker Award, Geoffrion not only gives the Nashville Predators a home town hero it can follow, it also gives a major boost to the youth hockey movement in Tennessee. How many young aspiring kids playing hockey throughout Tennessee honestly felt that they had a chance to make it to the NHL? Probably not as many as there will be in the coming years! What will the impact of Geoffrion, who attended Brentwood Acedemy, have on youth hockey when he one day laces up the skates and pulls over a Nashville Predator jersey? The potential is endless. But there are a few steps remaining before the impact of Geoffrion can reach that potential. First, Geoffrion needs to finish out his college career which includes one final game. Granted, when your final game is playing for the National Championship at the Frozen Four it isn’t anything to take for granted. After the Championship game tomorrow against Boston College, Geoffrion is free to sign his entry level contract. Expect the Predators to extend an entry level contract to Geoffrion within the next few days and assign him to Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL to gain playoff experience. Geoffrion will get a chance to make the NHL roster for the 2010/2011 season, but will probably continue to play in Milwaukee to continue his development.
But, the day will come. The Nashville Predators will have its home town hero in a Predators uniform one day. And the second that happens, youth hockey will explode throughout Nashville. And while one player from Nashville doesn’t suggest there are others on the way, it does lend validation to progress. But when that progress is the best player in college hockey, it speaks volumes.
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Written by Mark Jasper