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Here’s the full 2017 NHL Draft order of selections

Here they are, all 217 selections from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft from the United Center in Chicago. For the entire Round 1 recap, complete with analysis, click here.

Round 2

32. Colorado — Conor Timmins, D, OHL Sault Ste. Marie

33. Vancouver — Kole Lind, RW, WHL Kelowna

34. Vegas — Nicolas Hague, D, OHL Mississauga

35. Philadelphia (from Arizona) — Isaac Ratcliff, LW, OHL Guelph

36. New Jersey — Jesper Boqvist, C, SHL Brynas

37. Buffalo — Marcus Davidsson, C, SHL SJurgarden

38. Detroit — Gustav Lindstrom, D, SHL Almtuna

39. Dallas — Jason Robertson, LW, OHL Kingston

40. Florida — Aleksi Heponiemi, C, WHL Swift Current

41. L.A. — Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, WHL Spokane

42. Carolina — Eetu Luostarinen, C, SM-liiga Kalpa

43. Winnipeg — Dylan Samberg, D, Hermantown (Minnesota HS)

44. Arizona (from Philadelphia) — Filip Westerlund, D, SHL Frolunda

45. Columbus (from Tampa-Vegas) — Alexander Texier, C, France

46. New York Islanders — Robin Salo, D, SM-liiga Sport

47. Ottawa (from Calgary) — Alex Formenton, LW, OHL London

48. Tampa Bay (from Toronto) — Alexander Volkov, RW, KHL SKA St. Petersburg

49. San Jose (Boston-New Jersey) — Mario Ferraro, D, USHL Des Moines

50. Anaheim (San Jose-Toronto) — Maxime Comtois, LW, QMJHL Victoriaville

51. Pittsburgh (St. Louis) — Zachary Lauzon, D, WMJHL Rouyn-Noranda

52. Carolina (New York Rangers) — Luke Martin, D, NCAA Michigan

53. Boston (Edmonton) — Jack Studnicka, C, OHL Oshawa

54. Buffalo (Minnesota) — Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, SM-liiga HPK

55. Vancouver (Columbus) — Jonah Gadjovich, LW, OHL Owen Sound

56. Montreal — Josh Brook, D, WHL Moose Jaw

57. Chicago — Ian Mitchell, D, AJHL Spruce Grove

58. Montreal (Washington) — Joni Ikonen, C, SHL Frolunda

59. Toronto (Ottawa) — Eemeli Rasanen, D, OHL Kingston

60. Anaheim — Antoine Morand, C, QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst

61. Nashville — Grant Mismash, LW, US U-18 NTDP

62. Vegas (Pittsburgh-Carolina) — Jake Leschyshyn, C, WHL Regina

Round 3

63. New Jersey (Colorado) — Fabian Zetterlund, LW, SHL Farjestad

64. Vancouver — Michael DiPietro, G, OHL Windsor

65. Vegas — Jonas Rondbjerg, RW, SHL Vaxjo

66. Florida (Arizona) — Maxwell Gildon, D, USA U-18 NTDP

67. Carolina (New Jersey) — Morgan Geekie, C, WHL Tri-City

68. Montreal (Buffalo) — Scott Walford, D, WHL Victoria

69. Arizona (Detroit-San Jose) — MacKenzie Entwistle, RW, OHL Hamilton

70. Chicago (Dallas) — Andrei Altybarmakyan, RW, KHL Lvy St. Petersburg

71. Detroit (Florida) — Kasper Kotkansalo, D, USHL Sioux Falls

72. L.A. Matt Villalta, G, OHL Sault Ste. Marie

73. Carolina — Stelio Mattheos, RW, WHL Brandon

74. Winnipeg — Jonathan Kovacevic, D, NCAA Merrimack

75. Arizona (Philadelphia) — Nate Scharr, C, OHL Guelph

76. Tampa Bay — Alexei Lipanov, C, KHL Balashikha

77. New York Islanders — Benjamin Mirageas, D, USHL Chicago

78. Edmonton (Calgary-Arizona) — Stuart Skinner, G, WHL Lethbridge

79. Detroit (Toronto) — Lane Zablocki, RW, WHL Red Deer

80. Philadelphia (Boston) — Kirill Utimenko, G, KHL Dynamo St. Petersburg

81. New Jersey (San Jose) — Reilly Walsh, D, Proctor Academy (New Hampshire HS)

82. Arizona (St. Louis-Edmonton) — Cameron Crotty, D, CCHL Brockville

83. Detroit (New York Rangers) — Zach Gallant, C, OHL Peterborough

84. Edmonton — Dmitri Samorukov, D, OHL Guelph

85. Minnesota — Ivan Lodina, RW, OHL Erie

86. Columbus — Daniil Tarasov, G, KHL Ufa

87. Montreal — Cale Fleury, D, WHL Kootenay

88. Detroit (Chicago-Carolina-Chicago) — Keith Petruzzelli, G, USHL Muskegon

89. Buffalo (Washington) — Oskari Laaksonen, D, SM-liiga Ilves

90. Chicago (Ottawa-Carolina) — Evar Barratt, C, US U-18 NTDP

91. Anaheim — Jack Badini, C, USHL Chicago

92. Nashville — David Farrance, D, US U-18 NTDP

93. Pittsburgh — Clayton Phillyips, D, USHL Fargo

Round 4

94. Colorado — Nick Henry, RW, WHL Regina

95. Vancouver — Jack Rathbone, D, Dexter School (Massachusetts HS)

96. Vegas — Maksim Zhukov, G, USHL Green Bay

97. Minnesota (Arizona) Mason Shaw, C, WHL Medicine Hat

98. New Jersey — Nikita Popugaev, LW, WHL Prince George

99. Buffalo — Jacob Bryson, D, NCAA Providence

100. Detroit — Malte Setkov, D, SHL Malmo

101. Dallas — Liam Hawel, C, OHL Guelph

102. San Jose (Florida-New York Rangers) — Scott Reedy, C, US U-18 NTDP

103. L.A. — Michael Anderson, D, USHL Waterloo

104. Carolina — Eetu Makiniemi, G, KHL Jokerit

105. Winnipeg — Santeri Virtanen, C, SM-liiga TPS

106. Philadelphia — Matthew Strome, LW, OHL Hamilton

107. Philadelphia (Tampa Bay) — Maskim Sushko, RW, OHL Owen Sound

108. Arizona (New York Islanders-Philadelphia) — Noel Hoefenmayer, D, OHL Ottawa

109. Calgary — Adam Ruzicka, C, OHL Sarnia

110. Toronto — Ian Scott, G, WHL Prince Albert

111. Boston — Jeremy Swayman, G, USHL Sioux Falls

112. Chicago (San Jose-Vancouver) — Tom Siderlund, C, SHL Skelleftea

113. St. Louis — Alexey Toropchenko, RW, KHL Balashikha

114. Colorado (New York Rangers) — Petr Kvaca, G, Czech League Budejovice

115. Edmonton — Ostap Safin, RW, Czech League Sparta

116. Minnesota — Bryce Misley, C, OJHL Oakville

117. Columbus — Emil Bemstrom, C, SHL Leksand

118. L.A. (Montreal-Dallas) — Markus Phillips, D, OHL Owen Sound

119. Chicago — Roope Laavainen, D, KHL Jokerit

120. Washington — Tobias Geisser, D, Swiss League Zug

121. Ottawa — Drake Batherson, C, QMJHL Cape Breton

122. Anaheim — Kyle Olson, RW, WHL Tri-City

123. New York Rangers (Nashville-New Jersey-San Jose) — Brandon Crawley, D, OHL London

124. Toronto (Pittsburgh) — Vladislav Kara, LW, KHL Ak Bars Kazan

Round 5

125. Colorado — Igor Shvyrev, D, KHL Magnitogorsk

126. Arizona (Vancouver-Edmonton) — Michael Karow, D, USHL Youngstown

127. Vegas — Lukas Elvenes, RW, SHL Rogle

128. Arizona — Tyler Steenbergen, C, WHL Swift Current

129. New Jersey — Gilles Senn, G, Swiss League Davos

130. St. Louis (Buffalo) — David Noel, D, QMJHL Val-D’Or

131. Detroit — Cole Fraser, D, OHL Peterborough

132. Dallas — Jacob Peterson, C, SHL Frolunda

133. Florida — Tyler Inamoto, D, US U-18 NTDP

134. L.A. — Cole Hults, D, USHL Madison

135. Vancouver (Carolina-Chicago) — Kristoffer Gunnarsson, D, SHL Frolunda

136. Winnipeg — Leon Gawanke, D, QMHJL Cape Breton

137. Philadelphia — Noah Cates, LW, Stillwater (Minnesota HS)

138. L.A. (Tampa Bay) — Drake Rymsha, C, OHL Sarnia

139. New York Islanders — Sebastian Aho, D, SHL Skelleftea

140. Calgary — Zach Fischer, RW, WHL Medicine Hat

141. Toronto — Fedor Gordeev, D, OHL Flint

142. Vegas (Boston-Carolina) — Jonathan Dugan, LW, Northwood School (New York HS)

143. New Jersey (San Jose) — Marian Studenic, RW, OHL Hamilton

144. Chicago (St. Louis) — Parker Foo, LW, AJHL Brooks

145. New York Rangers — Calle Sjalin, D, SHL Ostersund

146. Edmonton — Kirill Maksimov, RW, OHL Niagara

147. Minnesota — Jacob Golden, D, OHL London

148. Columbus — Kale Howarth, LW, BCHL Trail

149. Montreal — Jarret Tyszka, D, WHL Seattle

150. Chicago — Jakub Galvas, D, Czech League Olomouc

151. Washington — Sebastian Walfridsson, D, SHL Modo

152. Pittsburgh (Ottawa) — Jan Drozg, LW, SHL Leksand

153. Anaheim — Olle Eriksson Ek, G, SHL Farjestad

154. Nashville — Tomas Vomacka, G, NAHL Corpus Christi

155. Pittsburgh — Linus Olund, C, SHL Brynas

Round 6

156. Colorado (Colorado-San Jose) — Denis Smirnov, RW, NCAA Penn State

157. New York Rangers (Vancouver) — Dominik Lakatos, C, Czech League Liberec

158. Vegas — Nick Campoli, C, OJHL North York

159. San Jose (Arizona) — Jacob McGrew, RW, WHL Spokane

160. New Jersey — Aarne Talvitie, C, SM-liiga Blues

161. Vegas (Buffalo) — Jiri Patera, G, Czech League Budejovice

162. Detroit — John Adams, RW, USHL Fargo

163. Dallas — Brett Davis, RW, WHL Kootenay

164. Detroit (Florida) — Reilly Webb, D, OHL Hamilton

165. New York Islanders (L.A.) — Arnaud Durandeau, LW, QMJHL Halifax

166. Carolina — Brendan De Jong, D, WHL Portland

167. Winnipeg — Arvid Holm, G, SHL Karlskrona

168. Philadelphia — Olle Lycksell, RW, SHL Linkoping

169. Tampa Bay — Nicklaus Perbix, D, Elk River (Minnesota HS)

170. Columbus (New York Rangers-Chicago) — Jonathan Davidsson, RW, SHL Djurgarden

171. Calgary — D’Artagnan Joly, RW, QMJHL Baie-Comeau

172. Toronto — Ryan McGregor, C, OHL Sarnia

173. Boston — Cedric Pare, C, QMJHL Saint John

174. New York Rangers (San Jose) — Morgan Barron, C, St. Andrews College (Ontario HS)

175. St. Louis — Trenton Bourque, D, OHL Owen Sound

176. Nashville (New York Rangers) — Pavel Koltygin, C, QMJHL Drummondville

177. Edmonton — Skyler Brind’Amour, C, U18 Selects Academy (USMAAE)

178. Minnesota — Andrei Svetlakov, C, KHL CSKA

179. Columbus — Carson Meyer, RW, NCAA Miami (OH)

180. Tampa Bay (Montreal) — Cole Guttman, C, USHL Dubuque

181. Vancouver (Chicago) Petrus Palmu, RW, OHL Owen Sound

182. Washington — Benton Maass, D, Elk River (Minnesota HS)

183. Ottawa — Jordan Hollett, G, WHL Regina

184. Florida (Anaheim) — Sebastian Repo, RW, SM-liiga Tappara

185. San Jose (Nashville-New Jersey Devils) Alexander Chmelevski, C, OHL Ottawa

186. Pittsburgh — Antti Palojarvi, D, SM-liiga Luuko

Round 7

187. Colorado — Nick Leivermann, D, Eden Prairie (Minnesota HS)

188. Vancouver — Matt Brassard, D, OHL Oshawa

189. Vegas — Ben Jones, C, OHL Niagara

190. Arizona — Erik Walli Walterholm, RW, SHL Djugarden

191. New Jersey — Jocktan Chainey, D, QMJHL Halifax

192. Buffalo — Linus Weissbach, LW, USHL Tri-City

193. Detroit — Brady Gilmour, C, OHL Saginaw

194. Dallas — Dylan Ferguson, G, WHL Kamloops

195. Boston (Florida) — Victor Berglund, D, SHL Modo

196. Philadelphia (LA-Tampa Bay) — Wyatt Kalynuk, D, USHL Bloomginton

197. Carolina — Eemeli Rasanen, D, SM-liiga Jokipojat

198. Winnipeg — Skyler McKenzie, LW, WHL Portland

199. Montreal (Philadelphia) — Cayden Primeau, G, USHL Lincoln

200. Tampa Bay — Samuel Walker, C, Edina (Minnesota HS)

201. New York Islanders — Logan Cockerill, LW, US U-18 NTDP

202. Calgary — Filip Sveningsson, LW, SHL HV 71

203. Toronto — Roan O’Connell, D, St. Andrew’s College (Ontario HS)

204. Boston — Daniel Bukac, D, WHL Brandon

205. New Jersey (San Jose) — Yegor Zaitsev, D, KHL Balashikha

206. St. Louis — Lias Andersson, D, SHL Lulea

207. New York Rangers — Patrik Virta, C, SM-liiga TPS

208. Edmonton — Philip Kemp, D, US U-18 NTDP

209. Minnesota — Nick Swaney, RW, USHL Waterloo

210. Columbus — Robbie Stucker, D, St. Thomas (Minnesota HS)

211. Winnipeg (Montreal) — Croix Evingson, D, NAHL Shreveport

212. San Jose (Chicago) — Ivan Chekhovich, LW, QMJHL Baie-Comeau

213. Washington — Kristian Roykas Marthinsen, LW, SHL Almtuna

214. New Jersey (Ottawa-San Jose) — Matthew Hellickson, D, USHL Sioux City

215. Chicago (Anaheim) — Joshua Ess, D, Lakeville South (Minnesota HS)

216. Nashville — Jacob Paqutte, D, OHL Kingston

271. Pittsburgh — William Reilly, D, NCAA RPI

Let’s talk about why the Penguins traded for Ryan Reaves

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From a big picture perspective the Pittsburgh Penguins acquisition of Ryan Reaves on Friday night isn’t really a major deal. Normally teams swapping fourth-liners and 20 draft spots wouldn’t be the type of move that would move the needle or send any sort of a ripple through the NHL.

This one is a little different.

This is the Pittsburgh Penguins — the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions — ever so slightly deviating from the path that made them the best team in hockey the past two seasons.

As general manager Jim Rutherford put it on Friday night after the trade, “We’re getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game.”

Rutherford was critical of the way superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were treated during the postseason and talked about how his team would pretty much have to add one or two players to take care of it since the league does not seem to protect its stars.

Commissioner Gary Bettman quickly dismissed that criticism upon hearing it.

On Friday, Rutherford added that guy and the discussion quickly turned toward the element Reaves brings and what it might mean for the Penguins.

Coach Mike Sullivan talked about how opponents played the Penguins “harder” this past season and that they expect it to continue again this upcoming season, and that Reaves can help with “a little pushback” and how teams “take notice” when he is in the lineup.

Reaves himself talked about what he can provide for the Penguins’ stars.

Here he is, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“It’s more just making sure everybody on the ice knows I’m coming every night. You go run one of my guys, you’ve got 230 pounds coming right back at you. Sometimes that makes guys think twice. When you’re 190 pounds soaking wet and you’re going after somebody on my team, and you’ve got somebody that’s 230 coming after you, sometimes it’s a deterrent, sometimes it’s not. But I think that’s kind of how I’ve established myself over the last year.”

This isn’t the first time the Penguins have been inspired to go down this path due to the treatment of their superstars.

During the 2013-14 playoffs New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and Marc Staal made a habit out of using the back of Crosby’s head and neck for cross-checking target practice in front of the net.

The response from Pittsburgh was outrage that nobody responded and for the team to add some sort of muscle to help take care of that.

Then this happened the following summer.

That guarantee went unfulfilled.

Liberties were still taken against not only Crosby and Malkin, but also against the Penguins’ other superstar, defenseman Kris Letang. He was on the receiving end of two brutal hits that injured him during the year. One resulting in a lengthy suspension to Zac Rinaldo, and another from Shane Doan that knocked Letang out of the lineup for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.

They also tried it with Tom Sestito when they brought him in on a pro tryout contract. He ended up playing 17 games in two years with the Penguins. He was ejected from two of them.

Here he is at the time of his initial tryout talking about what he wanted to provide.

“When you play other teams and they have somebody who not only can play but can run their other guys, you see them holding off,” Sestito said. “They’re not going to be running other guys. Their third- and fourth-line guys aren’t going to run your guys.”

The names change. The idea remains the same.

Deter. Make them hesitate. Make them think about it. Answer back.

Still, the abuse continues.

All of this is a little unfair to Reaves because to his credit he has worked hard to improve his game as a hockey player and to be a little more than just hired muscle. He has worked to adapt his style to the faster NHL and to improve his play defensively. There was evidence of that this past season when he set career highs in goals and points.

If the focus on this acquisition were on that, or on his ability to forecheck, this would simply be a trade involving a couple of fourth-liners and we wouldn’t be talking about it right now.

But we keep going back to the presence, and the element, and pushback, and protection, and deterrence, mainly because that’s what the Penguins seemed to be after with this trade. Or at least what they seem to be selling.

So will any of that work? Can Reaves actually provide that sort of protection?

There is no doubt he will be willing to respond after the fact, because even though his fight totals have decreased in recent years he is still a willing heavyweight.

The issue is whether or not he can stop even a little bit of the abuse toward his teammates by making opponents like Washington’s Tom Wilson or Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky (two of the biggest thorns in the Penguins’ side) take notice.

The easiest way to answer that now is to look at what sort of abuse the Blues — Reaves’ former team — took in recent years.

It was a lot.

Over the past four seasons the St. Louis Blues — Reaves’ former team — were on the receiving end of eight incidents that resulted in supplemental discipline from the NHL (suspension or fine), typically reserved for the dirtiest plays. The only team that was on the receiving end of more during that stretch was the Boston Bruins (10 –and keep in mind, this was a team that had Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic for most of those years).

During one nine-day stretch in 2014 the Blues lost T.J. Oshie and David Backes to head shots. The two hits resulted in seven games in suspensions while Oshie and Backes both missed playoff games. Reaves was in the lineup both nights.

The next season Minnesota’s Marco Scandella was fined for an illegal hit to the head on Oshie. Last year New Jersey’s Bobby Farnham was hit with a four-game ban for taking a late, cheap run at Dmitri Jaskin while Reaves was on the ice. There are also several other borderline hits that did not result in supplemental discipline (like this, and this, and this).

This isn’t to suggest that Reaves is bad at his job or that he is somehow responsible for those plays.

It is to point out that dirty stuff is still going to happen to star players whether he — or any player like him — is there or not.

Players like Tom Wilson, and Brandon Dubinsky, and Bobby Farnham are paid a lot of money to rattle the cages of players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That is what they do. That is their role and they are going to do it whether there is a physical element in the other team’s lineup or not.

The only thing that can stop it is a significant crackdown from the league to hand out harsher punishments when it happens.

It is very possible that Reaves can be a useful fourth-liner for the Penguins. He will play physical, he will be aggressive on the forecheck, he might chip in a few goals. Is he better than whatever alternative options they could have had for that spot? Or what they had in that spot a year ago? That remains to be seen.

The cost to acquire him really isn’t that high. Oskar Sundqvist seems to have limited upside and the difference between the No. 31 and 51 picks is typically insignificant, especially in what is thought to be a weaker class.

But if the Penguins are hoping for Reaves’ presence to stop opposing players from taking liberties against their stars they are probably setting themselves up for disappointment.

All it might do is get them the occasional pound of flesh in return after the fact and whatever satisfaction that brings them.

Maybe that is all they are looking for. Maybe it is a message to the league itself.

Whatever the reason, it is something they did not need on their way to consecutive championships.

Golden Knights’ historic home opener goes Oct. 10 versus Coyotes

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Mark the date in your calendars.

The Vegas Golden Knights have announced the date of their inaugural home opener. Their first-ever NHL regular season home game at T-Mobile Arena goes Oct. 10 versus the Arizona Coyotes.

The Golden Knights will make history on Oct. 6, when they play their first NHL regular season game on the road against the Dallas Stars, according to reports.

The full NHL schedule will be released Thursday.

On Tuesday, the Golden Knights, as well as the rest of the NHL, unveiled their brand new jerseys for the 2017-18 season. Vegas has also submitted its expansion draft selections.

Other notable home openers from across the league:

— The Penguins open up at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 4 against the St. Louis Blues. The Penguins will unveil their 2017 Stanley Cup championship banner before the game.

— The Stars’ home opener goes Oct. 6, as they will officially welcome the Golden Knights into the NHL.

— The Bruins host the Western Conference-champion Nashville Predators on Oct. 5.

Here is the full list from the NHL:

Anaheim Ducks: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Arizona
Arizona Coyotes: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Vegas
Boston Bruins: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Nashville
Buffalo Sabres: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Montreal
Calgary Flames: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Winnipeg
Carolina Hurricanes: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Minnesota
Chicago Blackhawks: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Pittsburgh
Colorado Avalanche: Wednesday, Oct. 11 vs. Boston
Columbus Blue Jackets: Friday, Oct. 6 vs. NY Islanders
Dallas Stars: Friday, Oct. 6 vs. Vegas
Detroit Red Wings: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Minnesota
Edmonton Oilers: Wednesday, Oct. 4 vs. Calgary
Florida Panthers: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Tampa Bay
Los Angeles Kings: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Philadelphia
Minnesota Wild: Saturday, Oct. 14 vs. Columbus
Montreal Canadiens: Tuesday, Oct. 10 vs. Chicago
Nashville Predators: Tuesday, Oct. 10 vs. Philadelphia
New Jersey Devils: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Colorado
New York Islanders: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Buffalo
New York Rangers: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Colorado
Ottawa Senators: Thursday, Oct. 5 vs. Washington
Philadelphia Flyers: Saturday, Oct. 14 vs. Washington
Pittsburgh Penguins: Wednesday, Oct. 4 vs. St. Louis
San Jose Sharks: Wednesday, Oct. 4 vs. Philadelphia
St. Louis Blues: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Dallas
Tampa Bay Lightning: Friday, Oct. 6 vs Florida
Toronto Maple Leafs: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. NY Rangers
Vancouver Canucks: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs. Edmonton
Vegas Golden Knights: Tuesday, Oct. 10 vs. Arizona
Washington Capitals: Saturday, Oct. 7 vs Montreal
Winnipeg Jets: Wednesday, Oct. 4 vs. Toronto

The origins of Predators’ catfish-tossing tradition

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Detroit Red Wings fans have their octopi. The Panthers’ faithful in Florida had the “rat trick.”

Nashville? The Predators have catfish, the Southern staple that has become a beloved badge of honor fans delight in throwing onto the ice for good luck.

Who started Music City’s slippery tradition? This fish tale stretches from the home of one of the Original Six NHL franchises to what once was one of Nashville’s seediest neighborhoods a generation ago, following the long and twisting path of a man who has been a country music drummer, disc jockey, chef and restaurant owner. And, as he tells it, Nashville’s original catfish chucker.

That man is Bob Wolf, and he feels his need for secrecy finally is at an end.

“It’s been 20 years almost, and it’s time,” Wolf said.

Indeed it is. The Predators are about to host their first Stanley Cup Final game, on Saturday night. Pittsburgh leads the best-of-seven series 2-0, but that’s another story.

Nashville’s catfish tradition is well known around here, but it became national news earlier this week thanks to Jacob Waddell, 36 .

After an extraordinary effort to conceal a flattened catfish on his person, Waddell threw it onto the ice – in Pittsburgh – on Monday night. The Predators then scored three goals before Pittsburgh pulled out a 5-3 win in the opener. Waddell was charged with disorderly conduct, possessing instruments of crime and disrupting meetings or processions before they were withdrawn.

Wolf, of course, watched all this from afar with some measure of satisfaction.

He says the idea to toss a catfish grew out a discussion at Wolfy’s during the Predators’ inaugural season, back in 1998-99. Wolf is a Rangers’ fan born in Brooklyn who had played drums for Johnny Paycheck and others before going into the restaurant business in Nashville. He helped open the restaurant bearing his name across from renowned honky-tonk Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. He also lobbied Nashville to build an arena on the other corner to spur redevelopment of what then was a neighborhood down on its luck.

Back then, he served burgers to construction workers and the Predators’ new owner, Craig Leipold. Once Nashville landed an NHL expansion franchise, Wolfy’s became a go-to stop for fans and players. There were also a fair number of Red Wings fans in the area, thanks to General Motors’ nearby Saturn plant and the automaker’s close ties to Detroit.

The Red Wings immediately became Nashville’s biggest foe.

A couple days before Detroit’s visit in January 1999, Wolf said, he sat with friends looking for a uniquely Tennessee answer to the Red Wings’ storied octopus tradition. Jack Daniel’s whiskey was too precious. Guitar picks way too small. Wolf’s inspiration came when he walked outside and looked down Broadway to the Cumberland River.

Catfish!

Wolf bought a nine-pound catfish and wrapped it in newspaper and plastic wrap. On Jan. 26, 1999, Wolf tucked the catfish underneath his Predators’ jersey, walked in and waited for Nashville’s first goal. The stench started wafting around him until the Preds’ lone goal in what ended up a 4-1 loss.

Wolf said he tossed the catfish, then ran up the aisle. Friends around the arena provided cover and a distraction by running as well.

“The first time I saw the catfish flop on the ice, we were playing Detroit so I thought it was an octopus,” Leipold, now owner of the Minnesota Wild, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it was a catfish. I figured that it had to be one of our fans mocking the Red Wings. I was not disappointed.”

Wolf said Leipold, still a close friend, did not know about the catfish. With a small bar inside the arena, Wolf said he knew where to hide from security, too.

“It wasn’t meant to be anything but fun and answer Detroit’s call to their octopus,” said Wolf, now semi-retired and living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. “`Hey, we’re the new Southern team on the ice, and we’re going to throw a catfish on the ice.’ That was kind of the attitude that day.”

Nashville was hooked. The catfish caught on. The tradition became so popular that officials started handing out delay of game penalties against the Predators, which put things on ice for a while.

With the Predators’ in the playoffs for the 10th time in 13 years, there has been a catfish comeback. Dead fish have never been so popular.

Five hit the ice one night early in the playoffs. The offensive linemen of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans held up catfish while revving up fans before another game. Country star Keith Urban even held up a catfish, and the linemen had more catfish for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. When Colton Sissons finished a hat trick, left tackle Taylor Lewan celebrated by throwing a catfish instead of a hat.

Little Fish Market in Nashville was offering a free catfish to fans with a ticket to Game 3 or Game 4 – that’s $1.95 a pound, including head, skin and guts.

The Predators don’t discuss security procedures, and it’s not clear how many catfish will be in attendance – in secret or otherwise – at Games 3 and 4. No etiquette exists for the best time to throw a catfish, though fans have largely avoided throwing them on the ice during play this season. It essentially gives the other team a free timeout, after all, and there’s that threat of putting the other team on a power play.

Tossing catfish during pregame festivities appears to work best for fans, with one caveat: Don’t hit the anthem singer.

Pete Weber, the Predators’ radio play-by-play man, loves explaining to outsiders why Nashville fans toss a catfish.

“I really tend to get tickled when I see a catfish go over the glass,” Weber said. “I absolutely love that.”

Wolf marvels at the Predators’ success and the tradition that started with a single fish.

“The idea was to keep it a secret, and obviously we did a good job until the Pittsburgh fish,” Wolf said. “And this story has to get out. It’s a fun story, and it sets the record straight.”

AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Minnesota and Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Predators postseason run has turned Music City into Smashville

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The place known as Smashville is ready for its close-up.

The Nashville Predators have reached their first Western Conference final in franchise history and that has spread hockey fever far beyond their arena and the team’s loyal legion of fans. Stars from Carrie Underwood to Lady Antebellum are lining up to sing the national anthem and the likes of John Hiatt to Lee Greenwood are singing with the house band during intermissions.

Not only do Predators’ flags and banners drape Nashville’s famous honkytonks, they now hang from front porches in the suburbs of Music City.

“You can’t drive through a neighborhood without seeing a flag,” Predators president Sean Henry said. “So it’s fun to tap into a passion that this community has for sports, and right now it’s all about the Nashville Predators.”

College football may be king in the South and NASCAR remains popular, but hockey certainly has a foothold. It’s not unusual anymore for a Southern team to be in the mix for a Stanley Cup championship – this just happens to be the first time that Nashville has made it this far.

The Predators are on their best run postseason yet and the longest by either of Nashville’s two major league franchises in 14 years. Shoot, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans haven’t reached the playoffs since 2008 and last reached the AFC championship in 2003.

That’s why most TVs were tuned to hockey at a local barbecue joint after the Predators ousted St. Louis in six games . People wanted to watch Nashville’s next opponent, either Anaheim or Edmonton.

Nashville native and PGA golfer Brandt Snedeker said he’s never seen so much yellow walking around downtown before Game 4 against the Blues. Everyone in his child’s class at school has Predators’ gear, too.

“To feel the energy on the ice was unlike anything I’ve felt in sports before,” said Snedeker, who brought the Ryder Cup with him to the game. “It was such a dynamic, electric atmosphere to see all that energy in one place pulling for one team and doing something only Nashville would do in the right way … it was awesome to watch.”

The Titans have been very supportive. Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray stirred up fans waving a rally flag for one game, while coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson regularly wear Predators’ gear. During a rain delay, the Triple-A Nashville Sounds showed the Predators’ playoff game a few blocks away on their guitar-shaped video board. The Vanderbilt Commodores watched the end of Sunday’s clincher on their own video board after their own game.

Former Bills and Jets coach Rex Ryan is a season-ticket holder who attended playoff games in St. Louis and Nashville. Former Titans coach Jeff Fisher also was at a recent playoff game.

“People just want to be with this team, and we just love this fan base,” Henry said.

The Predators also are benefiting from youth hockey programs in this non-traditional market, and now former skaters are buying their own tickets. They’ve now sold out 55 consecutive games, including every luxury suite this season.

About 70 percent of the Predators’ tickets are sold outside the city’s home county, with up to 20 percent of those coming from outside of Tennessee.

Matt Clark, a 30-year-old human resources manager, drives down from Louisville, Kentucky, for two to three games per month for the past three years. He grew up playing hockey in Roanoke, Virginia, where his favorite ECHL player was Terence Tootoo whose brother, Jordin, played for Nashville. Clark said the Chicago and Detroit jerseys he used to see in the stands are gone now, replaced by Predator gold.

“I’ve been to a lot of hockey stadiums, and it’s definitely up there at the top,” Clark said. “Every time I go the atmosphere’s pretty electric. Definitely one of my favorite things about it is during the TV timeouts when everybody stands and cheers at the top of their lungs to encourage the team.”

Fans make Bridgestone Arena so loud that a radio engineer measured the decibel level at 121.7 late in Nashville’s last home game. The NHL may have bigger buildings than Nashville, whose official capacity is 17,113. The Predators insist none is louder.

“They’re on their feet the entire game,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “You don’t see that at a lot of hockey games. It almost feels like a college football game of some kind.”

Tapping Underwood for the national anthem this postseason was pretty easy since her husband, Mike Fisher, is team captain. Who’s singing the anthem now is a closely guarded secret with artists offering to help out as the good times roll in Smashville.

“It’s great to see that the whole hockey world realizes how big of a hockey city this is,” defenseman Roman Josi said.