Hockey is alive and growing in the Nashville area and proof can be seen in junior hockey beginning to make its appearance. Starting this fall, the Nashville Junior Predators will kick off the era of junior hockey in Nashville with their home base being A Game Sportsplex in Franklin, Tennessee. The Junior Predators will be a part of the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), a Tier III junior league that is sanctioned by USA Hockey. Over the years, the league has undergone multiple changes, but now serves as a premier training ground for some of the best players across the country. Along with having teams across the country, one of the highlights about the NA3HL is that they have strategically placed teams in breeding grounds for hockey players. This allows players to stay closer to home while they develop and attend school.
In bringing the NA3HL to Nashville, one well-known name appeared in the ownership of the Junior Predators. Former Nashville Predator JP Dumont is part of the ownership of the club and is looking forward to seeing youth hockey grow in Nashville.
“I’ve been around youth hockey for the last few years and this opportunity came up,” said Dumont on becoming part of the ownership. “I thought it would be a great project for me outside of being at home and taking care of my girls. It would be a fun thing to do to stay around hockey. It’s a great way to show Nashville that we really care about the kids and hopefully that will open a lot of doors for some of the hometown kids.”
With it being the first time that junior hockey is coming to Nashville, it was a bit of a process, but it’s something that Dumont was committed to.
“It started slow in the beginning, but now things have started to pick up a bit and it’s starting soon,” said Dumont on the progress of putting the organization together. “We have the rink set up and once we jump on the ice, I think the fans will really appreciate the caliber of hockey we’re going to show. It’s going to be an exciting game to watch.”
Dumont knows that there are different roles to ownership, even in the NA3HL. Will he be a hands-on owner or one that lets the staff do what is necessary?
“It’s not something I just put my name in and didn’t want to be involved,” said Dumont. “I want to make sure it goes well, not just for me. We want to do that for all of the kids here so they have a chance to go further. I take this really seriously. I just hope the kids work hard and have fun. I played junior and it was the best time of my life.”
It was 2006 when Dumont came to the Predators organization. Over those years, youth hockey has completely boomed in Nashville and he’s been here to witness it and be a part of it.
“When I came here, I was jumping on the ice and I was supposed to teach them hockey and I was putting my stick on the board and showing them how to skate,” said Dumont about youth skaters when he first arrived. “I had to hold them so they could skate one lap around. Now, hockey is growing so much, it’s definitely fun to be around.”
The past few days, Dumont has been taking part in the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase in Franklin, TN. He’s been working closely with a team made of players born in 1999 and 2000, most being from the southeast region of the United States. These players are the future and he can see it while coaching them.
“This camp is great exposure and will help create a team from Nashville,” said Dumont on the camp. “We’ll have more and more players willing to stay here and play. That’s definitely going to grow the sport. Having those kids around will just expand everybody’s horizon on hockey in the south.”
In the future, it’s apparent that we’re going to see more players playing college and major junior hockey from the south. Soon enough, we’ll see more players drafted from Tennessee and other southern states. It’s only a matter of time.
“You never know what step they’re going to take next,” explained Dumont on players taking it to the next level. “Right now, I see some kids with a lot of edge and are ready to go. There’s some really impressive hockey going on with some players. With size and speed, we’ve seen a little bit of everything, so it’s really fun to watch.”
Having a former professional hockey player like JP Dumont stay in Nashville is a tremendous blessing to the hockey community. Dumont is completely committed to seeing youth hockey grow in the area and him being a part of the Nashville Junior Predators proves that. As more former NHL players continue to call Nashville home, the ability for youth hockey players to have access to them will only hone their skills further than ever before. Who knows, you might soon be watching a future NHL first round draft pick skating around the rinks in the Nashville area.
For more information on the NA3HL and the Nashville Junior Predators, visit their website. We’ll continue to follow up on the team and bring you more information as it develops.
*Header image courtesy of Nashville Junior Predators*