December 18, 2011

Peverley journeys from non-traditional markets to hockey hub

By Jesse Connolly

After witnessing the well-documented struggles of franchises such as the Thrashers and Predators, many NHL fans often lump all teams in non-traditional markets together.

Now in first full season with the Bruins, Rich Peverley was rewarded with a three-year contract extension. (Getty) Sometimes the criticisms posed and the objection to squads being placed in certain cities is justified. But in other cases, teams with a raucous, loyal fan base are unjustifiably raked over the coals.

Perhaps no one knows this better than Rich Peverley, who has suited up for both the former and the latter in Atlanta and Nashville, respectively, and now finds himself in an Original Six city with the Bruins.

“The first thing is you’re selling out every game,” Peverley said when asked to compare Boston to his previous two stops. “There were nights in Atlanta where we weren’t getting too many fans. Whenever you have a soldout building every night, it’s a great feeling.”

Peverley certainly won’t sugarcoat how rough things were for the Thrashers, who relocated to Winnipeg and rebranded themselves as the Jets for the current campaign.

“It just didn’t work out,” he said of the organization’s time in Georgia. “Maybe if the team had put a winner on the ice, there would’ve been a little bit better following.”

Conversely, the 29-year-old forward won’t let anyone unfairly put down the Predators, who have done a tremendous job of spreading the region’s passion for a once entirely unfamiliar sport.

“Playing in a hockey market has been a goal of mine, but I think people don’t give Nashville enough credit,” Peverley said. “I think it is a good hockey market and they always seem to get good crowds, and their crowds are great.”

While the Predators don’t have a sellout streak as lengthy as the defending champs to boast about — having sold nearly 96 percent of available tickets through their first nine games of the season after a franchise-best 94.3 percent in 2010-11 — business seems to be doing quite well in a spot that many thought never should have been given a hockey team to root for in the first place.

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com