NASHVILLE – If Reggie Jackson was right and “fans don’t boo nobodies,” the Wild’s Ryan Suter must really, really be somebody.
The former Predators defenseman was booed noisily and often during Nashville’s home opener Tuesday night. Unlike his lone visit to his former home last season, Suter was ready this time. His Wild teammates tried to prep him by amusingly booing him the first time he touched the puck at Tuesday’s morning skate.
Recently, Predators coach Barry Trotz fueled the situation by endorsing the jeering of Suter by fans. That made for an interesting conversation Tuesday morning when Suter bumped into his former coach.
“I said, ‘I thought we were a little closer than that,’ ” Suter said. “I think he was a little, uh, a little embarrassed by it.”
Said Trotz, “I do like Ryan. I just know Section 303’s not going to let him off the hook. So I’ve just played along with it. Ryan’s a big part of our history. He’s an exceptional defenseman, and we know it. One thing you’ll find out about the Nashville fans, they are passionate.
“Ryan is like one of our family, seeing him as an 18-year-old, but he’s the enemy now. So if they want to stay tough on him, that’ll be 303’s decision, not mine.”
In August, Trotz told a Nashville radio station regarding the Wild, “They stole Ryan Suter, so I want to kick their butt, plain and simple.”
Wild owner Craig Leipold, who used to own the Predators, laughs it off, saying of Trotz, “He doesn’t mean that. He’s a funny guy, and he’s trying to drum up a divisional rivalry with us.”
Perhaps showing his sense of humor, Predators GM David Poile roomed Suter with heir apparent Seth Jones, the fourth overall pick in June’s draft and son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, at the U.S. Olympic orientation camp in August.
“He told me he was going to do that, but I thought he was joking,” Suter said. “He really did. It was kind of funny. He’s a good kid, really nice and quiet. You can tell he’s been around pro sports, pro athletes before. He fit right in.”
Jones, 19, said rooming with Suter was a “little bit awkward at first. But we got over it. I enjoyed hanging with him for a few days. He talked very highly of Nashville.”
Matt Cullen may be a born and bred Minnesotan, but he’s getting used to life in Nashville. The former Wild forward signed a two-year deal with the Predators, has his three boys enrolled in hockey and is listening to see if they absorb a southern drawl.
“If I start hearing, Y’all when they come home, I’m going to wonder,” he kidded.
His stallmate? Former Wild Eric Nystrom.
“I come all the way to Nashville and have to sit right next to Nys,” Cullen joked.
“Lucky him,” Nystrom shot back.