NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning put their own twists on cowboying up their arrival attire for the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at Nissan Stadium on Saturday.
The Predators dressed in jeans, black rock ‘n’ roll band T-shirts and custom-made Music City Outlaws-themed leather jackets and trucker hats from designer Travis Austin, whose flagship showroom in Nashville is a couple blocks from Bridgestone Arena.
For their first outdoor game, the Lightning arrrived in a double decker bus pulled by a tractor and went with the all-denim “Canadian tuxedo” look with jean jackets, shirts and pants. Of course, they topped their Tennessee tuxedos with cowboy hats and boots.
Lightning forward Pat Maroon said captain Steven Stamkos was the catalyst for the cowboy look.
“We were kind of discussing, ‘Stammer’ came up with the idea and we kind of came up with the idea of taking the tractor too,” Maroon said. “I guess we’re trying to look like country guys in Nashville. That’s kind of how we came up with it.”
Forward Ross Colton said he wasn’t sure how he would look.
“It’s just something different,” he said. “It’s a little goofy. I think it’s a cowboy thing. I’ve never seen that or dressed like it, so I had to go and get all this stuff for it and I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is what I’m walking into the rink as?'”
Tweet from @TomGulittiNHL: Steven Stamkos leads the Tampa Bay Lightning into Nissan Stadium in their all-denim Canadian tuxedos. The Lightning arrived in a double decker party trailer. pic.twitter.com/TfZM55XT7c
The Predators traveled from Bridgestone Arena to Nissan Stadium on the top level of two double decker buses, driving down Broadway, with fans lining each side of the street, on their way.
“Just a really cool experience to go down Broadway like that,” Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “Lots of Tampa fans, but obviously lots of Preds’ fans too. So it was kind of a really cool moment that I’m sure all of us will remember for a really long time.”
Former Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, whose No. 35 was retired Thursday, led Nashville into the stadium. Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Taylor Lewan and country music star Dierks Bentley, who is playing during the game, walked in at the end.
When the Predators played the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, they entered Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas wearing all-black suits, shirts and ties in a nod to late country music legend Johnny Cash. After the St. Louis Blues defiantly wore beachwear to the 2022 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis, despite a game-time temperature of minus-8 degrees Fahrenheit, the Predators decided to up their sartorial game for hosting their first outdoor game.
Travis Austin Customs supplied the Stars with their custom cowboy hats for the 2020 Winter Classic when the company had its flagship showroom in Dallas. Now that the designer’s showroom is in Nashville, the connection with the Predators was a natural one.
Predators defenseman Roman Josi and forward Matt Duchene visited the showroom for a consultation and to look at some of the options available.
“We went in and just had a look and saw what was possible,” Duchene said. “We kind of talked about everyone doing a little custom, and Travis did an unbelievable job with them. They look incredible. I think they’re going to be as good as anything anyone’s done for the outdoor games for sure. St. Louis will be hard to beat, obviously. That was pretty funny. But these are kind of a different style, and we’ve got some cool hats too.”
Austin’s manager, Cody Maldonado, said Duchene and Josi wanted, “an Eric Church, rock-star type of vibe with aviators (sunglasses).
“We kind of threw in the idea of the hats, because that’s what we do, and it all just kind of came together.”
Each outfit was customized to include some specific individual touches. The Predators players presented Rinne with a leather jacket that featured pictures of his No. 35 banner and the goal he scored against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020 on the back.
Among the personalized features on Josi’s jacket are the name of his son Luca, his hometown Bern, Switzerland and a picture of Cash on the back. Duchene’s jacket has a picture of Church on the back.
“Obviously, this is a music city and there’s so many great musicians and I think we just kind of wanted to honor some of those great musicians,” Josi said.
Said Duchene, “People have some really personal things. It’s all personal with them and stuff people like and jersey numbers, family, music lyrics. All kinds of different stuff. So, it’s really cool.”
Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh played in four outdoor games with the New York Rangers: the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia, two 2014 Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium in New York, and the 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field in New York. What the teams wore when they arrived was not part of those outdoor games, but McDonagh thinks it has added to the experience for the players, who each try to up what other teams and their teammates come up with.
“I think it’s fun that it’s kind of grown into kind of a team bonding, a little bit of a competition at times,” McDonagh said. “It’s fun to see the different teams do different things, different themes.”
NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika and Editor-in-Chief Bill Price contributed to this report