NASHVILLE– Pekka Rinne had his No. 35 retired by the Nashville Predators on Thursday, the first in their 23-season history.
The goalie retired July 13 following 15 seasons with the Predators, who joined the NHL for the 1998-99 season.
“Nashville will always be my home,” the 39-year-old said during a pregame ceremony at Bridgestone Arena, “and I’ll always be a Nashville Predator.”
The ceremony began with the introduction of some of Rinne’s family members — including father Jukka, mother Helena, fiancee Erika, and son Paulus — and former teammates such as current Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber and Kimmo Timonen.
Rinne, wearing a navy-blue suit, white shirt and gold tie, greeted current Predators players in a hallway next to the rink before stepping onto a runner that led him to the stage near center ice.
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Introduced by Nashville captain Roman JosiRinne waved to the fans, who greeted him with a standing ovation.
Moments after Rinne’s speech, the No. 35 jersey was raised to the rafters.
The Predators announced during the ceremony that they’ll put a bronze statue of Rinne outside Bridgestone Arena next season.
“It’s an honor,” Rinne said earlier Thursday of having his number retired. “I consider myself very fortunate that there’s been a lot of great players in this organization over the years. Also, I realize I was lucky enough to play for a long time for this organization, and that’s obviously a big thank you to [general manager David Poile] as well. He believed in me and gave me an opportunity, and I was able to have a long career here.
“That creates a connection to this organization and to this city. I think that’s obviously a big reason why I’m sitting here today.”
Rinne, selected by the Predators in the eighth round (No. 258) of the 2004 NHL Draft, is Nashville’s leader in nearly every goalie category, including games played (683), wins (369) and shutouts (60). He’s in the top 20 in NHL history in wins (tied for 19th) and shutouts (19th).
He was the Vezina Trophy winner in 2018 voted as the best goalie in the NHL and was a finalist in 2011, 2012 and 2015. Last season, he was voted the winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice, and who has made a humanitarian contribution to his community.
Rinne visited some of his former teammates prior to the morning skate ahead of the game against the Dallas Stars.
“They still consider me one of them,” Rinne said. “That means the world to me. I mean, teammates, that’s your family. So, yeah, it means a lot to me, that’s for sure.”
Predators center Ryan Johansena teammate for six seasons, said Rinne was as admired as a person as he was for his skill on the ice.
“I think he might be one of the most respected guys to ever play this game, that will ever have his jersey retired,” Johansen said. “The way he carries himself. … I think we’re going to see, from the fans and ex-players that have come to town and his teammates, one last chance for this city to show the love for him and make this night amazing .”