When the Nashville Predators arrived in Middle Tennessee in 1998, there was an uphill climb to connect with the city. A hockey team in the south? With football just down the road? If this team wanted to succeed and thrive in Music City, it would take leg work. But more importantly, it would take a genuine desire to connect.
Thus was born the Predators Foundation; a grassroots organization to teach people in the south about hockey while using the sport to reach the community. With no overhead, the foundation can deploy a large budget to maximize organizational reach. It partners with its players and faces of the team to walk alongside non-profits in Nashville.
“No matter the success of the team, we’ve continued that very accessible grassroots mentality just having really close relationships with nonprofits in the Middle Tennessee area,” Rebecca King, Vice President of Community Relations for the Nashville Predators and Executive Director of the Predators Foundation, explains to UNRIVALED.
“We really are touching thousands of lives through hundreds and hundreds of different nonprofits.”
The Predators aren’t content to just cut a check, explains King, but committed to work hand-in-hand with each organization they’re assisting. In turn, Nashville embraces the hockey team that won over the southern city.
“We’ve been very grassroots and so our fans have come along, because they each have an individual story that ties back to a player that visited their child at Children’s Hospital, or a hockey player that did a hockey clinic for their kid many years ago. And then we foster those relationships over the years.
“It’s built this community that we’re kind of the sweetheart team of Nashville because they love what we have done over many, many years. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s been building gradually over the years and we keep growing.”
Still the foundation wanted to do more. In a fast-moving sport like hockey, the key to a successful game plan is an ability to manage transitions. Transitioning from offense to defense or one line to the next without a hiccup can be the determining factor in a win versus a loss.
Ahead of the 2019-2020 season, the Preds took that same principle to the community. The Predators Foundation—in partnership with Nashville based SmileDirectClub—established the SuperGrants Program to root out organizations that assists those in crucial transitions.
“Maybe they were in prison, and they are transitioning into life outside of prison or they were in the military and they are transitioning to civilian life, or they were in a domestic abuse situation and they are starting a new life; so really impactful times of transition,” explains King.
The foundation awards grants ranging from $25,000-$100,000. King is hoping to grow that impact exponentially in the upcoming season with a kickoff grant of $100,000.
Over the last 23 years, the Nashville Predators have claimed a divisional title, a conference championship and even became the Cinderella team of the 2016-2017 season during their run to the Stanley Cup Championship. Just as importantly during that time, at the hand of the Predators Foundation and SportsGrants Program, the city and its team have become forever intertwined, each helping the other grow.