The Nashville Predators are a professional ice hockey team based in Nashville, Tennessee. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Predators joined the NHL as an expansion team in the 1998–99 season, and play their home games at Bridgestone Arena.
On September 25, 1997, Leipold and team president Jack Diller held a press conference where they unveiled the franchise's new logo, a saber-toothed cat (Smilodon floridanus).The logo was a reference to a partial Smilodon skeleton found beneath downtown Nashville in 1971 during construction of the First American National Bank building, now the UBS Tower.
Once the logo was unveiled, the franchise held a vote among fans to choose a name. Three candidates were culled from 75: "Ice Tigers," "Fury" and "Attack." Leipold added his own submission to the vote, "Predators." On November 13, Leipold revealed at a press conference that his submission had won out and that the new franchise would be known as the "Nashville Predators."
At one point, rumors began to circulate that the team would move before the first puck ever hit the ice. One rumor had Leipold trading franchises with the Edmonton Oilers, with the Oilers moving to Nashville and the Nashville expansion franchise moving to Houston, Texas. Leipold shot this rumor down, saying "[T]here is no chance."
When awarded a franchise, the city of Nashville paid 31.50% of the $80 million fee to join the League. The city has engaged an affiliate of the team to operate the arena and that agreement protects the city against annual arena operating losses over approximately $3.8 million. The $15 million payroll of the team was the lowest of the NHL.
The Predators first took the ice on October 10, 1998, where they lost 1–0 at home to the Florida Panthers. It was the only sold out game of the Predators' first five bouts in Nashville.Three nights later, on October 13, they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3–2 for their first win. Forward Andrew Brunette scored the first goal.