The Nashville Predators are still, comparatively, a very young organization. Hell, Craig Leopold's brainchild that eventually became the franchise was pitched to Gary Bettman the same month and year that the author of this blog was born.
Coming into the Preds' 21st season as an NHL team, it's time we take a journey into both the past and present to argue for Pekka Rinne's number 35 becoming the team's first retired number.
The most obvious reason is that Rinne has been a Nashville Predator his entire career. He was drafted 258th overall by the Preds in 2004 and spent three seasons in Milwaukee before he was assigned to back up Dan Ellis in Nashville. His NHL debut came on Dec. 15, 2005 during the 2005-2006 season, in which he posted a win and a loss apiece. His official rookie debut didn't come until the 2008-2009 season, when he became the Preds' first rookie goaltender to record a shutout on Dec. 1, 2008.
Rinne won the starting job in his rookie season and simply never looked back. He is arguably the best Predator ever- next to probably only David Legwand, who owns the title to many of the team's offensive records. He has represented the Preds in the All-Star game in 2016, 2018, and 2019.
His franchise records are as follows:
- Most games played by a goalie (567)
- Most minutes played by a goalie (32,895)
- Most shutouts (51)
- Most wins in a single season (43, in 2011-2012)
- Most career wins (341)
- Most playoff wins (45)
He has become one of the NHL's best all-time goaltenders, currently sitting at #22 in the NHL's All-Time Wins ranking. His current career save percentage ranks 11th all-time, and he is in just fourth place in number of all-time shutouts recorded. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2018, after coming in second in 2011 and 2015 and third in 2012.
To lifelong Preds fans, however, Pekka's contributions to the greater Nashville community have had far greater impact than his stats have.
Rinne teamed up with former captain Shea Weber during the 2013-2014 season to start the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund, which collaborates with Vanderbilt's Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Rinne accommodates the kids during what seems like every Preds home-stand with personal visits and events that just melt your heart every time you hear about them.
During Barry Trotz's beloved tenure with the team, Rinne and Weber joined him in participating in the Best Buddies program, which caters to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Rinne has been an active "buddy" to countless people within the foundation, and attends their prom each year. Roman Josi has taken a significant role within the foundation as well.
Rinne's legend status in Music City gets him raucous applause and cheers every time Paul McCann announces his name in the night's starting lineup. The Preds faithful are awe-inspired with essentially every save he makes on every night he plays.
The wiry, soft-spoken, humble Finnish kid with the funny name has been a household figure in Nashville for 10 years now. As his impending retirement waits in the corner for the next few years, we should all hope that David Poile has already begun the stitching on this very important banner.