NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tossing catfish onto the ice has been a popular hockey tradition in Music City and the Nashville Predators finally have their own catfish tank inside the arena.
Team President Sean Henry unveiled the new tank hours before the Predators opened the NHL postseason against Colorado in their first-round Western Conference series. The team put the first of four catfish into the tank and No. 2 was on the way.
"Good symbolism with those four catfish," Henry said. "Four wins per series, four series gets you to the ultimate prize."
The Predators named the first catfish Gill and the second fish will be named Ben in honor of a longtime fan that died in 2017.
Thursday is the birthday of singer Vince Gill, also known as the mayor of Smashville, and Henry says Gill obviously was the inspiration. Gill was an original season-ticket holder who helped sell tickets when this franchise was getting started, and Gill was featured on billboards around town with a couple of teeth blacked out.
But Henry says Gill also can stand for how the fish breathes or for former Nashville defensemen and current team broadcaster Hal Gill.
Fans will name the other catfish through a social media poll with suggestions so far including Stanley, of course, in honor of the Stanley Cup. Henry said he's not superstitious about naming a catfish after the Stanley Cup that Nashville wants so badly.
The catfish tradition was a response to Detroit fans tossing octopi on the ice to symbolize the number of wins once needed to win the Stanley Cup. Bob Wolf, who owned a restaurant across the street from the Predators arena, takes credit for tossing the first catfish Jan. 26, 1999, during a visit by the Red Wings. A catfish was chosen in honor of the nearby Cumberland River.
A fan even tossed a catfish onto the ice during the Predators' first Stanley Cup Final game in Pittsburgh.
Henry said these catfish will stay in the tank.
"No one's going to rip it out, no one's going to be throwing it on the ice," Henry said. "But it will be something that is going to be fun."