Pete Weber and Terry Crisp remember journey with team as Predators play 1000th game
It isn’t just the Nashville Predators’ 1000th game on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena when the Montreal Canadiens visit Music City. Pete Weber and Terry Crisp have been the voices of the team since the very first broadcast on October 10th, 1998 — a 1-0 loss to the Florida Panthers.
Prior to coming to Nashville, Weber was involved with a variety of professional sports. A member of the broadcast team of the Buffalo Bills when they went to the Super Bowl four times between 1990-93, Weber also was the play-by-play commentator for the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) during the 1980s. With over 20 years experience in the NHL, Weber also worked for both the Los Angeles Kings and the Buffalo Sabres before settling down in Nashville.
Initially, family brought Weber to Tennessee. “Claudia’s parents were in Knoxville. It was easier to drive 2 hours instead of 14 hours from Buffalo. Plus, I always wanted to be a part of the birth of a franchise. This has been a new experience for me. For Terry, he is a veteran of birthing franchises. He birthed the St. Louis Blues, he birthed the New York Islanders. He birthed the Tampa Bay Lightning, if you will. He is an established midwife, aside from his hockey career.”
Crisp was a player for the inaugural seasons of both the Blues (1967) and the Islanders (1972). Crisp was also the first head coach of the Lightning, a position he held from 1992 until 1997.
“To be honest with you,” Crisp said, “I came here though a friend, Gerry Helper.” Helper is the Senior Vice President of Hockey Communications and Public Relations.
“Helper was already hired by the team working here that first year they were putting the team together,” Crisp continued. “I had been relieved of my coaching duties with Tampa. I was doing some work with TSN and FOX. Pete was already in place to do the play-by-play. They had a radio guy. They didn’t have anyone to do color commentary. Gerry asked me to come over to just do opening night. I came, I enjoyed the day and then went back to Tampa. They phoned me again for the second game. It went from one game to 14 years and loving it.”
Weber says it is not just the on-ice product that has changed within the organization over the past 13 years. “There were no barriers except for office cubicles,” Weber said, describing the Predators offices. “If you wanted to see the owner, Craig Leipold, just walk around the corner. If you wanted to see David Poile, the General Manager, it was the same thing. I had the best desk, if you want to talk about traffic. I had the pop machine and photocopier right beside me. But today, I hate to say this, now I don’t know everyone who works for the team anymore. It has grown immeasurably, but that’s the way all pro sports has gone.”
Just as the offices and staff of the Predators and grown and evolved, so has the on-ice product’s identity.
“Having gone through it as a player and as a coach, when you are first starting a team you are looking for an identity, but you don’t have one because you have a hodgepodge, and I don’t mean that in a discriminatory way,” Crisp said. “You have players who were castoffs from other teams, let’s be honest about it. You have players who are at the end of their career. You have young guys who never played in the NHL trying to make it. You have all these pieces trying to put them together. The dumbest thing you can do is think that it is going to immediately be put all together in one year. You knew that the one thing that was for sure was there was going to be a lot of changes,” he said.
Crisp noted that with stability came the identity the team was looking for. “What I like now is there is stablilty. They have an identity. They are a hard working team. They come every night to play for Trotz. When they first started, they had guys who wanted jobs and they needed to put the pieces in and try to make it all fit. At the same time they were doing this, they also had to contend with doing it in a market that wasn’t exactly Montreal or Toronto. It was new. There had been hockey before in Nashville, but not like this, it was a new market where hockey wasn’t number one on the sports page. They were digging new ground.”
Having played 999 regular season games, there are a lot of great memories shared by fans as well as all who work for the organization. For Weber, some of his fondest memories involve one of the Predators biggest rivalries. “For me, they all revolve around playing the Detroit Red Wings. I’m talking about the regular season. I’m not going to touch the 40 playoff games. I knew there was a breakthrough on Halloween night in 2003 where Steve Yzerman lost his cool, slamed the penalty box door and got a game misconduct. The glass shattered. The Predators came back and won the game. Every call wasn’t going Detroit’s way for once. The Predators were playing well on top of that. That stands out for me,” Weber said.
Crisp says making it to the second round of the playoffs was his favorite moment so far with the Predators organization. “When we knocked out the Ducks last year, that was the culimination of all the work of Trotz and Poile and this whole organization over the years. We raised the bar so many times in the years we were growing. We got passed the point of “one and done” being alright in the playoffs. That was no longer acceptable. I was the happiest when that buzzer went and we were going to the second round. The people I was the happiest for were the fans who were expecting it and wanting it, David Poile and Bary Trotz and all their staff. That was such a breakthrough. Our fans wanted it. Our city wanted it.”
“We saw it off the ice too,” Weber added,”the greeting at Signature Air Terminal when the Predators came back to town from Vancouver was just incredible to all of us.”
As the organization and on-ice product has grown, so has the fan base, and the knowledge of the sport in the South. in fact, during the first three years, Bell South leased Hockey 101 radios to fans in the Arena that people could listen to during the game. When there was a whistle for a stop in the action, an individual would explain to the people over the radios what was going on during the game.
While Weber calls the fan base today sophisticated, Crisp says Nashville has gone from Hockey 101 to “505 Hockey” and suggests that this past playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks showcased to the rest of the NHL what people in Nashville already know about the Predators. “The people know. Our fans know. The greatest breakthrough we got was last year playing the Canucks in the playoffs. We finally got to play a series in Canada where the Canadians got to see that Nashville has a damn good hockey team and Nashville puts on a damn good show at Bridgestone Arena. They finally got it. We are here to stay and Nashville is a legitmate NHL team.”
Weber chimed in with a joke. “This is how far things have come. As I heard this morning on the radio, it appears the Phoenix Coyotes are going to buy Research in Motion and move them down to the Valley of the Sun to save Jim Basillie. The only audience we have not won over is Jeff Miller from the Orange County Register who still refers to us as the Hicksville Hee Haws.”
“Hey Pete, you have to have an identity!” Crisp laughs.
Nashville hits the ice tonight for a special 6 pm start time when the Predators host the Canadiens at Bridgestone Arena.