Predators Enjoy Successful Global Series Trip to Bern and Prague
By Lance LeClere, MD and Kevin Morley, DAT, ATC, Nashville Predators
“Successful in so many ways” was how many of the Predators players and staff summed up the recent Global Series trip to Bern, Switzerland and Prague, Czech Republic. Yes, there was success on the ice, but there was so much more than that.
First, diligent preparation starting months prior to departure by the operations team, equipment staff, and medical staff laying the groundwork for a trip that many will consider one of the highlights of their career. Preparations started months prior to the trip with communication between Preds medical, NHL International, and the medical staffs in Bern and Prague, aiming to engage the entire team in thoughtful logistical planning. Medical records were reviewed, equipment was carefully chosen, members of the travel party were identified, and communication to the club and travelers was prioritized.
The Global Series events officially started on Friday, September 30 after the Predators’ final home preseason game at Bridgestone Arena. From Nashville, the Predators flew to Zurich, Switzerland, and then bused on to Bern, Switzerland–home of captain, Roman Josi. This brought an extra layer of special meaning for the entire organization, as the club met his friends and family from home and roamed the corridors of the arena to which he rode his bike for youth hockey games. The city of Bern did not disappoint. In addition to being incredibly beautiful, we enjoyed wonderful accommodations at the Bellevue Palace hotel in the heart of Bern, excellent food and drinks, courteous local citizens, and plenty of Swiss chocolates. Most notably, the city exploded with enthusiasm for their hometown hero and the entire Predators organization. Practice on Sunday, October 2nd concluded with a community “kids skate” with hundreds of aspiring future NHL stars taking the ice with the team. That night, the organization came together to celebrate the start of the season at the Hotel Kursaal, complete with beautiful vista views of the city of Bern and the Swiss Alps in the background. It was a night of incredible food and drinks, many photos, lots of laughs, and many stories told (some of which were true).
On Tuesday, October 3rd, we were met by a total of over 17,000 screaming fans as the Preds took on the Bern SC team. The crowd was electric, with over 9,000 fans in “The Wall,” a standing-only section across from the benches, packed together literally shoulder to shoulder, playing drums and chanting akin to a European soccer match. They feted their native Swiss sons Nino Neiderreiter and Roman Josi, with the latter scoring 2 goals during the game. Communication with the local medical staff was excellent throughout the stay in Bern. Thankfully, there were no significant injuries on either side, but both medical staffs exchanged ideas, shared stories and experiences, and “talked shop”. The oral surgeon for Bern SC even provided a tour of the local dental school and hospital to our Preds team dentist prior to the game. There is no doubt that both medical staffs took away valuable experience, established helpful international contacts, and learned lessons from this immersive experience. The game was topped only by the emotional sendoff from the crowd to Roman Josi and the entire organization. As the crowd went wild and Josi tapped his heart in appreciation, one could not help but realize the power of sports, and the NHL specifically, in connecting people around the world. One could not help of be proud to support an organization and a league that means so much to so many.
After brief skate and visit to the local hospital by some of the players on Tuesday, October 4th, we loaded the buses and headed to Zurich for our flight to Prague. After arriving at the Four Seasons Hotel in Old Town Prague, many took advantage of the final daylight hours to get their first glimpse of the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and Astronomical clock. This “scouting mission” allowed us to plan and maximize our time for Wednesday, October 5th, an off day for the team. With coffees in hand, we set out on foot to explore one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It was impossible not to grow closer as a group as we explored the historic sights, ate ice cream-filled chimney cakes, toasted drinks, and shopped for souvenirs for loved ones back home. We grew closer as a staff as we got to know each other better, and this will no doubt serve us and our players well in the upcoming season.
Thursday, October 6th was a day of practice and some sightseeing, but the official start of the season was finally on the horizon. After treatments and equipment checks at the O2 Arena had concluded, the preseason officially came to an end. On Friday, October 7th nearly 17,000 fans were treated to an excellent game at O2 Arena that started the NHL season. The energy was palpable as the crowd seemed to be split between Nashville Predators fans and San Jose Sharks fans. Perhaps the biggest roar of the night came when Prague native Tomáš Hertl found the back of the net for the Sharks. In the end the Preds came away with the win and both teams readied for a quick turnaround for the second game of the series the following day. After the puck drop from Czech native Jaromir Jagr in front of over 17,000 fans on Saturday October 8th, the Preds won another great game and the season was officially in full swing.
After a night of celebrating and squeezing in some final memories in Prague, it was time to head home on Sunday, October 9th. With mixed emotions of longing for our own beds and a return to families back home, but a twinge of sadness that the trip was coming to an end, we loaded our bags and headed to Nashville. There was universal appreciation for the opportunity to be involved in a trip that will provide wonderful memories for a lifetime. A trip that strengthened relationships and further developed strong organizational culture. And a trip that made us all appreciate how special this game and this league is for its players, its fans, and its hockey clubs. What a success—on so many levels!
All photos courtesy of Kevin Morley.