By KELLY LEHMANN
In the 2016-17 NHL season, the Nashville Predators went to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, and faced the returning champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. After six exciting games, the Predators lost to the Penguins, leaving many disheartened and disappointed. One key player for Nashville, Mike Fisher, the team’s captain throughout the season. After reflecting on the tough loss at the end of a historical season for the franchise, Fisher evaluated his career and his personal life, which led to the difficult decision of retirement.
It has been about six months since Fisher made that decision, and it seems like he is hungry for more hockey, and in particular, a Stanley Cup championship. About two weeks ago, Fisher skated at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, on the Predators home ice. Fisher has continued skating on the ice and intends on joining the team for practices and team gym workouts. The timing could not have been better because the NHL trade deadline just passed on Feb. 26 and getting these practices in and getting through all on the contract negotiations beforehand allows the ex-captain to be re-acquainted with the team just in time for the playoffs.
Not only is this story interesting because of the timeline of Fisher’s return, but an NHL player returning after retiring is relatively unheard of. Only a small number of former NHL athletes have attempted to come back after a retirement of any length of time. That being said, there are a few important consequences of Fisher’s return to the Predators’ locker room, bench, and overall team dynamics. Although the current leadership of the team (led by Captain Roman Josi and assistant captains Ryan Ellis, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Mattias Ekholm), it is always important for a young team to have the strength and influence of a veteran player, and an ex-captain at that, when going into the playoffs.
Moreover, it is very well known that Fisher is one of the classiest, most respected players in the game, and this could only be a good thing for the Predators as a whole. Additionally, Fisher has a very calming influence, which can lead to the understanding that Fisher will be able to automatically become a trusted voice once again. There are plenty of other benefits for the Predators by regaining Fisher, such as how he is Nashville’s fifth leading goal-scorer in franchise history. Fisher scored 109 goals during his seven years played as a Predator, and he was only primarily utilized as the second or third center in past seasons with the Predators.
Overall, Fisher accomplished many great feats over his 17 season-career in the NHL, but there’s still something he wants: to raise the Stanley Cup for Nashville. The 37-year-old has undoubtedly been paying attention to the success the Predators are having again this season after last years run for the Cup, and his drive to win is pushing his quick return from retirement. Fisher may not be up to the playing standards he was at during the prime of his career, but he doesn’t necessarily need to be. Having Fisher around on a daily basis, on and off the ice for the next rest of the regular season (and possibly the playoffs), might just be what the Predators need to attain the coveted championship their organization has yet to bring home.