As dozens of skaters wearing Nashville Predators gear took to the ice to perform their on-ice testing Thursday morning, a familiar face was watching from the sidelines. He was wearing all-blue Preds coaching attire, which was unusual for this particular individual, but perhaps something he (and the rest of us) might have to get used to for a while.

That’s because Pekka Rinne, an all-time Nashville Predators legend who retired from hockey in 2021, is back in town and has a new role.

As the Preds made official today, Pekka Rinne is now a Special Alumni Advisor to Preds’ goaltending coaches Ben Vanderklok and Dave Rook. This role, according to the Preds, is to “learn from” and “observe” the coaches in their efforts to develop the team’s goaltending.

From the looks of it, Rinne is already well suited for the role:

Rinne already has some coaching experience, serving as the Goaltending Coach for Finland’s silver-medal team at the 2022 World Junior Championship. So it’s no surprise he looked very comfortable in that role on Thursday, wearing the standard all-blue coaching attire while on the ice. Throughout the morning, he was seen striding through the Centennial Sportsplex with a bounce in his step, eager to get started, and of course stopping occasionally to greet familiar faces.

After on-ice testing concluded, the Preds goalies took to the ice to work on various goalie drills. Rinne worked with fellow Finnish netminder Kevin Lankinen and Admirals goaltender Devan Cooley. While most of the instruction came from Vanderklok and Rook, Rinne was frequently seen advising goalies in between reps, as well as retrieving loose pucks during drills.

From my vantage point, Rinne was doing more listening than talking, taking in the responsibility of his new role as diligently as he once took on the responsibility of minding the Nashville net.

But he still smiled an awful lot, clearly happy to be back in town, wearing gold and blue.

In the Preds’ press release about Rinne’s new role, David Poile said, “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome him back in this capacity,” then adding that “in addition to being such an impactful person in our community, we have no doubt that he will be a valuable resource for all the goaltenders in our system. Having his experience and presence will deeply benefit our entire organization both on and off the ice.”

Rinne’s experience is one thing, and we don’t know what kind of coach he will be while in Nashville. (ahem, sorry… what kind of Special Alumni Advisor he will be). But just seeing Rinne in the building again made a huge difference. His presence, as Poile put it, is going to be all the team needs initially. His impact on the team is undeniable… from the goaltenders to the skaters to the coaches and staff.

Everyone likes Pekka Rinne.

And having him back in the building gives the team instant momentum going into the 2022-23 season.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —