As a sea of Golden jerseys gathered around the legendary circle atop Music City’s most famous stage, history, for a brief moment, repeated itself.
Recreating the iconic Grand Ole Opry photo from 1998, earlier this month the Nashville Predators’ latest lineup took a moment to stand on the hallowed stage once more and reflect on the historical significance of the 2023-24 season.
Of course, there have been some changes in the last quarter century.
Andrew Brunette, spotted close to the upper right corner of the original photograph, found himself centered behind the famous Opry microphone stand on Wednesday, wearing the same black cowboy hat former Head Coach Barry Trotz did all those years ago.
“Back then, there was not a chance I’d ever want to coach,” he smiled. “It’s kind of full circle, coming back to Nashville to coach games, but also coming here today. It’s just kind of another nostalgic event for me.”
Another familiar face at the Opry shoot, though one that won’t be seen in the final photograph, was team photographer John Russell.
“It’s crazy that it’s been 25 years,” Russell said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but it’s cool. I still love doing this, and it’s really great to see Bruno up there in the middle with the hat on instead of Barry… So, it was cool to get to do this for these guys.”
There are plenty of new faces in this photograph, too, like the musically-gifted Ryan O’Reilly, who took a moment to serenade his teammates on the piano before the photoshoot session had ended.
Asked if he’d ever try his hand in front of a full house, the Predators center wasn’t so sure.
“I think I’d have to put in a couple more years of work,” the Stanley Cup champion said. “I can hold my own when I’m playing with some buddies, but this is a sacred place. I’d definitely want to be dialed in, take some proper lessons. It is just cool being on this stage, though and to be able to see this. I couldn’t even imagine what it’d be like packed. The aura would just be in the air here and it’d be something special.”
Whether it was their debut atop the Opry stage or a return trip, the moment provided two of Nashville’s most respected organizations the opportunity to come together once again and celebrate the journey thus far.
“It just speaks to the fact that the city’s growing and the community is growing and the Grand Ole Opry has hung around, just like the Nashville Predators,” Brunette said. “So again, to be back here is obviously historic and pretty neat.”
“The Opry has been here for decades, and the Predators have really made their mark on the community in the city of Nashville,” Russell said. “It’s really cool to see the two come together in a photo. Some people still have the posters that were shot 25 years ago, and 25 years from now, someone will probably still have one of these posters hanging up somewhere. It’s just kind of cool how that stuff kind of hangs around.”