We’re starting a new thing here at OTF. On Thursdays, we’ll relive some of the more “buzzworthy” moments in team history. From wild wins, to cringeworthy blunders, to the stories that made us go “....wait, what?” So put your nostalgia glasses on and enjoy!
Any long-time Predators fan, or lover of team trivia, probably knows the answer to the question: “Who scored the first goal in team history?” That’d be Andrew Brunette in the Preds’ second game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
What a lot of fans forget, though, is that the goal was, well, weird.
Like “the referees need five minutes reading the rulebook to see what in the world just happened” weird.
Waiting For a Goal
So let’s go back to the beginning. The Preds played their first game in team history back on October 10th, 1998: a fun moment to watch, but ultimately, kinda boring. The Panthers won 1-0, which meant fans would have to wait three more days to get a chance to see the home team score.
That takes us to October 13th. The Hurricanes were coming into the then-named Nashville Arena. The Preds got out to a hot start early, and fans sensed that coveted “first goal” was about to happen.
But it took a few moments to realize it.
We were about five minutes into the game. Preds defender Joel Bouchard fired a big slapshot that Canes’ goaltender Trevor Kidd just got a piece of. However, the rebound went straight to Brunette. He skated around a helpless Kidd, saw a wide open net, slid the puck through the crease, and....
The puck slid back to the boards.
That’s because Hurricanes defender Dave Karpa, an enforcer who once tried to beat up Nick Foligno’s dad, had skated back and shoved the net off its moorings. From the replay in the arena, it was pretty clear Karpa did it on purpose to prevent the goal. Referee Dennis LaRue blew the play dead as players from both teams surrounded the officials, appealing their case. An air of adrenaline-filled outrage flowed through the crowd, as fans were convinced they’d just been screwed out of celebrating their team’s first goal.
Then the ol’ “call upstairs” happened.
The Long Review
There were a couple of key questions LaRue needed to answer during the review: A.) did Karpa intentionally push the net off? And B.) was there any doubt the puck would have crossed the goal line and into the net had the net stayed on?
As clear as it may have been to the crowd, it’s not the easiest thing to be able to prove. Keep in mind, the puck never entered the net, and the refs needed indisputable evidence to be able to award the Preds a goal. How many times have we seen an “obvious” call go the other way because of technicality or video from one angle that maybe, MAYBE casts some doubt on the play?
That’s why after nearly five minutes on the phone, LaRue’s call was somewhat surprising.
The goal horn sounded for the first time in team history. Tim McGraw’s “I like it, I love it” remix kicked in, and the Preds players celebrated at the bench, where they’d gathered during the review.
So that’s it. The Predators’ first goal was scored on a shot that never went into the net, never tripped the red light, and took five minutes to be ruled a goal.
At the end of the day...kind of a letdown, right?
“Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t The Prettiest”
This was like recording a Snapchat of your toddler, then going back through your story and realizing “wait... did little Timmy just take his first steps? Huh, I guess he did.”
Even Brunette, the guy who wound up in the history books, wasn’t 100% thrilled with how the Preds’ big moment played out.
“It was a little bit disappointing that way, but they all count,” Brunette told The Tennessean after the game. “At the end of the season, it’s not how, but how many. I was really proud to get that first one.”
The rest of the game wound up being equally entertaining as well. The Preds added two more goals (less controversial this time) in the first half of the period, only for the Hurricanes to rally back to make it 3-2 by the end of the first period. Mike Dunham would take over the game after that, making 34 saves to send fans onto Broadway for their first victory celebration.
What a night.