Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning make a statement with custom pre-game kits

NASHVILLE — Wearing eye-catching outfits has become a hallmark of NHL away games, and the Nashville Predators matched the vibe ahead of their Stadium Series game on Saturday.

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

The Nashville players arrived in custom leather jackets they created themselves, with help from designer Travis Austin.

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

“It’s pretty cool that everyone has their own personal jacket,” Josi said. Austin said he created more than 25 custom leather jackets for the Predators. This included one for retired goalkeeper Pekka Rinne, who led the team to the stadium wearing a jacket with his retired number 35 on the back.

Most of the jackets were made entirely of black leather, but striker Filip Forsberg opted for bright blue sleeves. He had the Tre Konor – three crowns which are Sweden’s national emblem – on his back and a mustache on his right arm which mimicked his current facial hair.

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

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

“I think it grew over the away games they had. It’s funny. It’s a team bond. And a bit of a competition sometimes, I guess,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said.

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

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

“I heard the Blues were struggling a bit, but in my opinion they ended up with a great team,” Forsberg said. “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 during a team meeting.

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

“They wanted to do like a rock star theme,” Austin said. “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 unites them all.”

The process began when Josi and star forward Matt Duchene came to Travis Austin Customs on the 5th and Broadway for an exploratory meeting. They walked around the showroom and started designing what they thought they could do in the weeks leading up to the game.

What the players and the designer agreed on: a sheet with five different categories and three options per category, pre-selecting five different iconic images. It would give the Predators players a sense of agency in creating their looks while showing that the Austin team could create effectively.

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

That meant house flags, kids’ names, jersey numbers. There was a picture of a family dog. Rookie Tanner Jeannot requested a picture of a grain elevator from his native Saskatchewan. A player wanted a silhouette portrait of Johnny Drama from “Entourage” shouting “Victory!” Several jackets featured Cash. Yakov Trenin wanted a grainy photo of an old factory in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Austin said his team spent 10 hours creating each jacket. The outfits could cost $5,000 each.

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

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

“We had guys who would literally put their name and number in and say ‘do whatever you want’. We didn’t try to take that away from them. We tried to integrate him with the rest of the team as best as we could,” he said.

The results were startling. Players cheered on fans as they walked past, then posed for photos with their outfits inside the stadium lobby. Austin watched from the crowd as the Predators players passed like models on a track.

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

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