With the announcement of Pekka Rinne’s retirement, the Nashville Predators faithful immediately began discussing what Rinne’s finest moment at Bridgestone has been. There are a mountain of options to choose from. Rinne is the winningest Finnish goalie in the NHL, ends his career with a .917 save percentage, and recorded an impressive 60 shutouts. Of course, fans have to consider that glorious goalie goal against Chicago in January 2020, and certainly this incredible series of saves in the Stanley Cup Final (beginning with the stifling of Sidney Crosby—can I get an amen?).
Rinne’s play in net has been the backbone of this team, and to narrow down his 17,627 saves to one “best moment” is a mind-boggling task for the hockey historians to wrestle with in the coming days and weeks.
But for me? It doesn’t take more than a beat to know what Pekka Rinne’s finest moment in Bridgestone was.
As you can probably guess from my Twitter handle, I am a mom. I have three “nearly growns”—a 23-year-old daughter and 19- and 17-year-old sons. Every parent likes to brag about their children, so let me say unashamedly that my kids are pretty great. They’re (mostly) kind, funny, and they all enjoy Predators hockey. Of course, every parent also knows that there are challenges each of our children face. The mountains they are sometimes forced to climb take our breath away as we watch them navigate the rough terrain of life. This has been especially true for our daughter.
Our daughter was born with a cognitive/developmental disability. She is a wildly successful adult—she lives in an independent housing program, she works a full-time job as a respected member of her work team, and she is cultivating a social life that keeps her on the go. Her path to this full 20-something life has been challenging. People didn’t always see our daughter. They saw her disability. In school and with many people around us, our daughter was often considered the weird girl who could discuss and debate Star Wars and Marvel storyline nuance but didn’t read social nuance well. Her relationships and self-confidence were sometimes painfully intertwined.
Her senior year, our daughter worked up the courage to ask a popular baseball player to go to the prom with her. After he said yes, repeatedly, he cancelled on her just days before, saying he couldn’t make it, only to show up at the prom with another girl on his arm. (Parents reading this know not only the exact feeling in the pit of your stomach but also the exact amount of bail money required to handle this in the way your gut wanted to.) Seeing her work through her confusion and hurt felt like yet another Everest.
What does any of this have to do with Pekka Rinne’s finest moment?
He helped her climb that mountain.
The beautiful dress that my daughter bought for that prom didn’t go to waste. That boy and the hurt he caused were set aside. She remembered who she was when she attended the Best Buddies prom. Best Buddies is an international program that supports youth and adults who have intellectual or developmental disabilities through relationships, as well as with inclusive leadership and employment development. One of their most beloved events is the annual Best Buddies prom held at Bridgestone Arena for the Middle Tennessee Best Buddies programs. Pekka Rinne and Roman Josi, two huge supporters of Best Buddies, attended the prom at Bridgestone, too.
As my husband and I were enjoying the parents’ get-together several floors up at the Arena, I got a text from my daughter.
“Mom. MOM! Pekka is here!”
“Mom. MOM! I talk to Pekka! He is sooooo nice!”
“Mom. MOOOOOM. Look at this!”
And perhaps my favorite text I’ve ever gotten from her:
“Mom he is soooo nice and his clothes are so soft too”
Baseball player be damned. Pekka Rinne wanted to talk to my daughter, wanted his picture taken with her, and helped her remember that she—like everyone else—is worth people’s time. Years later, this picture is often her phone screen saver and her favorite story to tell. Mine too.
For all the games I’ve attended, all the highlights I’ve watched, and even that glorious goalie goal, this for me—without a doubt—was his finest moment at Bridgestone Arena.
For that moment, this picture, and that reminder for my daughter—this mom will always be a Pekka Rinne fan.