The significance of Pekka Rinne’s jersey retirement

A few years ago, when I was living in Los Angeles, I got home late from work one night, and my roommate turned on our PlayStation. We began playing whatever annual version of the NHL video game that had just come out. After a few hours of mindless video games and a number of pops, we decided to choose alumni teams. Being from New York, I picked a Rangers team that featured a rotating list of legends that I grew up either watcher or hearing about. The team featured the likes of Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch, Rod Gilbert, and Mike Richter. Being born and raised in Memphis, my roommate chose a Nashville Predators alumni team that was underwhelming, to put it nicely. After laughing at how stupid it would be to continue with the teams selected, we switched to a different game mode I’ve long since forgotten. That disparity in alumni came rushing back to me when I heard the news that the Predators would be retiring Pekka Rinne’s number 35.

It’s not only a well-deserved honor for the Finnish-born Rinne to have his number retired, but he will have the relevant distinction of being the first player in franchise history to have his name and number forever immortalized in Bridgestone Arena. It will be a fitting tribute for the two-time All-Star who came to the franchise after an underwhelming first six years of existence. Before Pekka, the organization hadn’t won single playoff series. During his 13 seasons in Nashville, he steered the club to seven playoff series wins, won the Vezina Trophy while carrying the Predators to the franchise’s first Presidents Trophy in 2017-18, and led Nashville to within two games of winning the Stanley Cup in 2017. Rinne retired with a combined regular and post-season career wins of 414.

When he was in his prime, he was amongst the best goalies of his generation like Lundqvist, Price, and Fleury. He will be remembered most for putting Nashville on the hockey map despite that rare company he shared. One of the great things about sports is passing down a love of the game, a team, or a player to new generations. Pekka gave current fans countless stories to tell future fans, and we’ll be forever grateful for that because he was one of the first true stars of the franchise.

Like quarterbacks, the goaltender is one of the more difficult positions to fill in all sports. Teams like the Flyers have had trouble filling their net for close to 30 years. Buffalo and New Jersey have had a difficult go of it since moving on from Hall of Famers in Brodeur and Hasek. The Predators have seemingly gone from one franchise legend in Pekka Rinne to another in Juuse Saros. Give it a few more years, and that Nashville Alumni team will look a lot different.

Luca Perito

Born and raised in New York. I've lived in Arizona, Maryland, Delaware, and California. Love all sports. Twitter @elbigcalzonelp -- Instagram @thebigcalzone

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