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Predators hope to add fans

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

MAYFIELD - The National Hockey League's Nashville Predators are always looking for ways to expand their fan base.

That effort was on display in Mayfield on Monday in a presentation to the Rotary Club and in the sponsorship of a street hockey clinic at Lowes Elementary School.

"There's no question that Mayfield, Paducah, Hopkinsville and Owensboro - all of these areas - have been extremely important to us as we expand our footprint," said Chris Parker, Predators executive vice president.

"I think being the closest professional sports team helps, no doubt. Hopefully, we've endeared ourselves in our attempts to get in the market and spend some time with people. We've got some huge advocates in this area who support not only our games but concerts and other events."

Kentucky is part of the Predators' designated NHL territory, due in part to the way national TV and radio coverage is set up.

Some local fans may have always followed the Predators while others are transplants from an area that had hockey teams, Parker said.

"I think the other part is Nashville is a great evening out," Parker said. "Some people may have stumbled upon the arena and ended up going to a Predators game by accident ... and the next thing you know they're a huge hockey fan."

The development of Seth Jones, the son of former Murray State University basketball star and NBA player Popeye Jones, could also contribute to the Predators' popularity, Parker said.

"He (Popeye Jones) was one of the more well-known athletes to come out of this area and achieve success, and now his son is one of our top prospects," Parker said of the younger Jones, who was the fourth player overall in last year's entry draft.

"He made the team as a 19-year-old, played the entire season and went on to play in the world championships ... he's just an immense talent."

According to Parker, exposing youth to hockey at an early age not only helps to grow the sport, but helps young people be physically active. The Predators see that as part of their overall mission, he said.

"We want to be as visible and active as possible. That's why we're up here at Lowes Elementary doing a street hockey clinic ... we try to touch all the bases. One way to do that is show schools how they can very effectively run a street hockey program," Parker said.

The Predators appreciate their fans of all ages, Parker said.

"It's a family-friendly experience in terms of the environment and atmosphere," Parker said. "When people travel to our games and make a conscious decision to invest their time and money, they should get a maximum return on their investment. We take pride in trying to enhance what we offer the fans."

The Predators begin their season at home Oct. 9. For more information, go to www.nashvillepredators.com.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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