The Nashville Predators are in the middle of an intense playoff race in the Western Conference. David Poile made three minor moves at the trade deadline, though most importantly he did not trade away Filip Forsberg, saying he feels very strongly they will be able to sign him to an extension.

Oh and the team has a runaway Norris Trophy winner in Roman Josi, Calder Trophy candidate in Tanner Jeannot, and two forwards putting up record breaking seasons: the aforementioned Filip Forsberg and their top paid forward Matt Duchene.

In short: a lot is happening with the hockey operations over at Smashville headquarters.

On Wednesday, Sean Henry, CEO and President of the Nashville Predators, gave an update on the business operations. This included key updates to the ongoing upgrades to Bridgestone Arena and ticket prices.

Here are three takeaways from what Henry had to say.

Season ticket price increase, but decrease for playoffs

If you’ve ever been a Preds season ticket holder, you know about the many gift packages sent on a regular basis. Bumper stickers, backpacks, coffee mugs, holiday decorations, gift wrap, and much more. Season ticket holders, especially long time ones, no doubt have the “Smiladon” logo emblazoned on a sizable portion of their household goods.

That’s no accident, according to Sean Henry.

“A guy that used to sit next to me would bring in his [gift] box from another team and say ‘look at all this stuff I got!’ and I would say ‘that’s awesome!… what did they give you last month?”

Henry is not only the CEO, but a passionate salesman for the Predators as a sports franchise, and will challenge anyone who says the Preds don’t provide the best “bang for your buck” in professional sports.

“We have the best season ticket package in all of sports,” Henry told media on Wednesday. “The overall package of what we do from a pricing standpoint. The amenities that we have, the freebies that we have,” alluding to the monthly gift packages season ticket holders receive. “There’s always going to something other teams do that we don’t do, but we always strive to be one of the top three or four teams in all of sports.”

But one thing was clear on Wednesday: fans will see small ticket price increases for the regular season in their renewal packages this year.

“This year we are taking a small increase,” Henry explained. “Our three year commitments that people have with us, we always lock people in that they will never have more than six percent increase. So we can go up six percent each year in some cases and four percent in others, in the past three years I don’t think we’ve gone up at all. This year we are going to up four percent.”

Henry mentioned this would be the first price increase (for three year commitments) since the Preds won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018. He also mentioned the Predators’ playoff streak (this year would be their 8th straight playoff appearance, should they make it) and commitment to putting a quality team on the ice as another selling point to the increase.

The good news is that playoff ticket prices would actually go down for the first round.

“Normally your playoff tickets are a little bit more expensive than what your season ticket rate is. Some teams it’s ten percent, some teams twenty-five, some teams it’s a hundred percent. Every round. Ours is normally between ten and twenty percent.

This year, for the first round of the playoffs, if we are fortunate enough to make it, will be twenty percent lower than your season ticket rate. The second round will be the same as your regular season rate.”

So while it may be hard for long time fans to swallow having a price increase for the first time in four years, at least they will have a price break on the playoffs. Which, as mentioned above, seems more like a possibility than perhaps we thought at the beginning of the season.

It will be a while on those Bridgestone Arena upgrades

You may remember back in 2019, the Predators signed a 30-year lease extension to remain in Bridgestone Arena. It was a landmark deal for the Preds, and a rather unique one, as it severed any remaining connection the team had with the city government in Nashville. The Predators committed to Bridgestone as their home, and also committed to the upkeep, maintenance, and upgrades required.

There were many upgrades mentioned alongside this news, including dreams of an expanded concourse, a commercial oasis with hotels, bars, and restaurants, an expanded pressbox, and plenty of other amenity embellishments.

Well, obviously a lot has happened since then. A natural disaster in March 2020, a bomb explosion by a domestic terrorist a few blocks away, and a global pandemic.

Delays, or even long term proposal changes made in 2019, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

But Henry says there were not technically any delays, that these were all long term plans that were intended for the first ten years of the 30-year lease.

“When we did that envisioning study, we knew most of the things on there will have some foundation to what actually happens. It was more engineering study, this is what this space could be, this is what it could support.

It’s not about building development. It’s not about building bars and restaurants and hotels and condos or jails or bowling alleys or whatever it is. It’s about making the arena bigger. And better. Period. All those other things help that and they feed into it.”

Henry then explained that the initial dreams of expanding the concourse and blending it into the commercial space around it are still in the plans. Due to lease and tax timelines, both with the city and the state, not to mention other tenants in the building that need time to relocate, the ETA on those upgrades getting started sounds at least two or three years away.

“We are responsible for making this a state of the art building for the next thirty years and we’re excited about it.”

“Golden Games” a priority as visiting fans return en masse

If you attended recent home games at the Blues and Maple Leafs, you might have noticed there were a lot of visiting fans in Bridgestone Arena.

Or at least, a lot more of them than there have been in recent years.

Blues fans rather enjoyed their 7-4 win over the Predators on March 12th, while Maple Leafs fans were less satisfied with their 6-3 loss in Nashville on March 19th. But in both cases, these opposing fans were present in large numbers and loudly supporting Bridgestone Arena’s visiting team.

Michelle Kennedy, Chief Operating Office of the Predators, mentioned this as a new focus of theirs, and also mentioned bringing back “Golden Games” as a potential fix.

“We were just in a meeting this morning talking about ‘Golden Games,” Kennedy said. “The last three games there have been more opposing fans than we’ve wanted in the building. So we are re-committing, re-dedicating to that Golden Games thing that became a victim of amnesia during COVID.”

“There are so many things that we’ve talked about, that we’re like ‘Oh yeah, we used to do that’ and we have to sit and remind each other of what all those things are.”

If you recall, “Golden Games” or “GOLD Games” were introduced a few years ago as a way to reduce the number of visiting fans in the building. It restricts the sale and re-sell of Nashville Predators home tickets to people who reside in the Predators television viewing area. Only about one third of all home games (13-14 games) were considered GOLD games, but they were mostly featuring teams from large fan bases that travel well: Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, etc.

From the sounds of it, the Predators’ business operations are not about to let visiting fan bases treat Bridgestone Arena as a place to take over.

The GOLD games policy has not been without controversy. Naturally, visiting fans have not been pleased by this restriction, but even some Predators season ticket holders have expressed displeasure. Restricting their ability to re-sell their tickets in the event they cannot attend one of 41 home games has caused some frustration.

But in the end, the Predators know they want to create an exclusive, unique, exciting source of sports entertainment at Bridgestone Arena. Part of that is controlling for outside influence and maintaining their reputation as a loud, difficult place to play in the NHL.