Sports

Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning showcase unique pregame looks for 2022 Stadium Series game

NASHVILLE — Wearing attention-grabbing outfits has become a hallmark of the NHL’s outdoor games, and the Nashville Predators matched the vibe ahead of their Stadium Series game on Saturday.

The home team rolled up to the game looking like a bunch of outlaws before taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Nashville players arrived in custom-made leather jackets they created themselves, with an assist from designer Travis Austin.

“We wanted to wear something cool. [Travis] Austin just opened up a store in Nashville. We went in there, and his jackets and hats looked unbelievable,” said Predators captain Roman Josi, who wore a jacket with his number, son’s name and an image of country music legend Johnny Cash on the back.

“It’s pretty cool that everyone has their own personal jacket,” Josi said. Austin said he created over 25 custom leather jackets for the Predators. That included one for retired goaltender Pekka Rinne, who led the team to the stadium wearing a jacket with his retired No. 35 on the back.

Most of the jackets were all-black leather, but forward Filip Forsberg opted for bright blue sleeves. He had the Tre Konor — three crowns that are the national emblem of Sweden — on his back and a mustache on his right arm that mimicked his current facial hair.

About half the team wore custom fedoras while the other players wore Music City Outlaws trucker hats, all designed by Austin. What teams wear into the NHL’s outdoor games has become as notable as the specialty jerseys they wear on the ice.

The Lightining stepped off its party bus in front of Nissan Stadium dressed in head-to-toe denim, with bolo ties and cowboy hats. The Lightning looked like they were headed to a square dance, wearing what coach Jon Cooper called “the Canadian tuxedo.”

“I think it’s grown during the course of the outdoor games that they’ve had. It’s fun. It’s team bonding. And a little competition at times, I guess,” said Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

The Boston Bruins were one of the first teams to dress thematically, with outfits inspired by the British crime drama “Peaky Blinders” at the 2019 Winter Classic in Notre Dame. The Bruins did it again at the NHL’s games at Lake Tahoe, with brazen neon ski suits inspired by 1990s fashion.

The St. Louis Blues upped the ante by arriving for their Winter Classic game in Minnesota — with a game-time temperature of minus-8 degrees Fahrenheit — in shorts, Hawaiian shirts and other beachwear.

“I heard the Blues were struggling a little bit, but in my opinion, they ended up with a great outfit,” said Forsberg. “We have a plan, at least.”

The Predators knew they had to make an impression on the red carpet before their outdoor game. Austin’s name came up in a team meeting.

Since opening his shop in Nashville two years ago, Austin and his manager Cody Maldonado had spoken with the team about working together. When the Predators were given a Stadium Series game at Nissan Stadium, things clicked. Austin had worked with some of the Dallas Stars players on their pregame looks before the Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl in 2020. Nashville was the visiting team — and made custom hats for about half the players.

“They wanted to do like a rock star theme,” said Austin. “But these guys come from all over the world. They all have different ideas of what a rock star looks like. But they also all have one thing in common, which is this city. Nashville is the one thing that ties them all together.”

The process began when Josi and star forward Matt Duchene came to Travis Austin Customs on 5th & Broadway for an exploratory meeting. They walked around the showroom and started to devise what they figured was possible to get done in the weeks leading up to the game.

What the players and the designer settled on: a sheet with five different categories and three options per category, preselecting five different iconic images. It would give the Predators players a feeling of agency in creating their looks while showing that Austin’s team could efficiently create.

“But at the next team meeting, one guy asked for one thing, and we said ‘yes.’ So that of course opened up the floodgates, and we just let everyone pick exactly what they wanted.”

That meant flags from home, children’s names, jersey numbers. There was a photo of a family dog. Rookie Tanner Jeannot asked for an image of a grain elevator from his native Saskatchewan. One player wanted a silhouette portrait of Johnny Drama from “Entourage” screaming “Victory!” Several jackets featured Cash. Yakov Trenin wanted a grainy photo of an old factory from his native Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Austin said his team put 10 hours into the creation of each jacket. The outfits could run $5,000 apiece.

“I’m grinning ear to ear thinking about it. We didn’t say ‘no’ to anything. We’re really proud to give these guys a taste of their home, as well as their new home in Nashville,” said Austin.

For Duchene, Austin helped him create a new personalized logo: a skull with his number ’95’ in one of the eyes and Tennessee’s state flag wrapped around the skull like a bandanna. They created a matching jacket for his son that says “Dutchy Junior.”

“We had some guys that literally just put their name and number and said ‘do whatever you want.’ We didn’t try to pull it out of them. We tried to fold it into the rest of the team as best we could,” he said.

The results were striking. The players high-fived fans as they walked by, and then posed for photos with their outfits inside the stadium concourse. Austin watched from the crowd as the Predators players walked by like models on a runway.

“That’s what 300 hours of work looks like,” he said, proudly.

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