NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Is Matt Duchene the final piece in the puzzle that the Predators have been missing? After signing a seven-year, $56 million deal over the summer, the 28-year-old forward can finally be settled after two seasons and a pair of trades taking him from Colorado to Ottawa to Columbus.
“When [my wife and I] left Denver we were searching for a situation that felt like this,” Duchene told NBC Sports last month. “I’m so grateful for my stops along the way. Ottawa and Columbus were such awesome places to play the last couple of years, but I think our path coming into free agency, it was clear for us where we kind of wanted to be after really thinking things over, getting some distance, seeing how things played out.
“It’s really nice to hopefully be settled for a long time. Obviously, you never know, at the end of the day you bet on yourself. You believe if you do your job you are going to be where you want to be for a while.”
We spoke to Duchene during the NHL Players Media Tour in Chicago last month about his transition to Nashville, John Tortorella’s comments, and becoming a father.
Q. We know that Columbus has a great atmosphere and everyone always talks about that and Vegas showed up. So how crazy it is to play in Nashville and everything that comes with it?
DUCHENE: “I am pumped to get in front of the fans there. It’s pretty special, even the chants they have. It was a place I loved to go play because it was such a hostile atmosphere and it was so loud, so much energy, the game ops is amazing, we just got a new Jumbotron. It is going to be a lot fun. I can’t wait to step out first time in front of the home fans.”
Q. What went into making the decision to leave Columbus and go to Nashville?
DUCHENE: “I don’t think it was a decision of leaving Columbus. Columbus was definitely a place that we really loved and enjoyed. The guys are great, the staff, everybody from head to toe was awesome. I think at the end of the day, Nashville was a place that our hearts were kind of there for a while. That’s a city that we kind of fell in love with over the years. I think the most important thing, too, is the hockey, and it’s a team that is poised to win and have a chance to win and that’s the first thing you look at. Everything else that came with it is very us and where we want to be and I think even after hockey I can see us settling down for sure.”
[COVERAGE OF WILD-PREDATORS BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]
Q. What about the city specifically drew you?
DUCHENE: “Well, everyone wants to point to the music part for me, but while that’s a great perk the big thing that I like is that outside of the city you can have a bit of land. I grew up in a small town in Ontario, my wife grew up in a small town outside off Denver called Parker. We grew up with space, we grew up in the country and I think that’s the biggest thing about Nashville, you can have that country lifestyle. It’s that laid back, a lot of land, a lot of room to spread out and still have the city right there. Nashville is such a cool up and coming, hip city and you know people are moving there like crazy. I think it is the fastest growing city in North America, so obviously I am not the only one that was drawn to it.”
Q. What did the team have that perhaps others didn’t?
DUCHENE: “There’s a lot of great teams in the league and it is very tough to pick a team to win the Stanley Cup. That just [shows] the parity of the game, but what I see from the team in Nashville, most of the team is entering their prime, which is exciting, so the longevity should be there if everyone does what they are capable of [doing]. I just believe in that group. I’ve liked that team from afar for a while and obviously, they came really close a few years ago, so it’s really fun to join a great, talented group.”
Q. You were one of three prominent players who chose to leave Columbus. Did you hear what John Tortorella had to say about it?
DUCHENE: “Yeah, I saw that. You know what, I don’t really take anything into that because after I signed with Nashville he and I exchanged texts and he was actually sending me fishing pictures over the summer. We had a great relationship and it was fun to play for him. That run is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and the fans in Columbus, the city it was pretty amazing. I am grateful for my time there. For me, I had to look at a lot of things, so Columbus was in consideration, for sure.”
Q. You became a father last season. What has that been like? Has there been anything as rewarding in your life?
DUCHENE: “No, it is the best thing I have ever been through. He eight months. He actually just started crawling. … It was amazing. Taking him to the rink the first time, it was on my birthday in Ottawa. It was really cool to take him to a game, take him in the room after we won. It was a good night. It’s been so neat. I want time to slow down. I also can’t wait to see him grow up.”
Pre-game coverage begins with NHL Live at 7 p.m. ET. Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play), Mike Milbury (analyst) and AJ Mleczko (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.