WASHINGTON – It had been five years since Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun last played for the Nashville Predators but the Czech Republic native still has fond memories of his time in Music City.
“I was just really happy they gave me the chance to be a starting [goalie] in the NHL,” says Vokoun, who was selected by the Predators in the 1998 NHL expansion draft, despite one game of NHL experience under his belt.
Tuesday, Vokoun is expected to make his 644th career start as the Capitals begin a three-game road trip at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (Caps pre-game at 7:30 p.m. on WFED 1500AM).
“I’d say that 90 percent of the people who were there the first day are still there – not so much from a player standpoint, but from an organizational standpoint.”
The Predators celebrated their 1000th game in franchise history over the weekend and among those who have remained in Tennessee since day one are Predators general manager David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz.
“I think that [consistency] is one of the reasons that, for a small-market team that is challenged money-wise, they have been able to stay competitive and somewhat successful over the years. They do a great with the resources they have- they’ve been able to draft well and develop players.”
Vokoun remains Nashville’s franchise leader among goalies for games played (383), wins (161) and shutouts (21). Although it’s only a matter of time before those records are broken by Nashville’s current goalie Pekka Rinne, who signed a seven-year extension last week, Vokoun will always have a place in Predators’ history.
“I’m never going to forget the first shutout in team history which he registered [Jan. 15, 1999 vs. Phoenix],” Predators play-by-play voice Pete Weber told the Capitals Radio Network. “He began that season third on the depth chart behind Mike Dunham and Eric Fichaud.”
Voukoun calls that season a learning experience.
“It was hard for a goalie,” he says. “We weren’t a very good team, but in a sense, it was good for me. I faced a lot of shots and we had a lot to deal with [as a team in its first year], so it made me a better player. It wasn’t an easy year, but at that point in my career, I didn’t care. I was just happy being in the NHL.”
Catch the Capitals and Predators tonight at 8:05 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 7:30 p.m. on Federal News Radio 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.