NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators waited a week to honour David Poile as the general manager with the most victories in the 100-year history of the NHL, throwing a big celebration before a home game Thursday night.
Among those in attendance were Rod Langway, Poile's first captain after being hired as general manager of the Washington Capitals in 1982, and Tom Fitzgerald, Poile's first captain with the then-expansion Predators in 1998.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand, too. Bettman was booed heartily by the fans — not an unusual occurrence for him — but said he'd get jeered anytime for Poile.
"In a profession with a high rate of turnover, the fact that you've done it with only two teams and you've only had five coaches is a testament to your stability, your professionalism, your consistency, your patience and your desire to win," Bettman said to Poile. "When it comes to being the heart and soul of our game, David has no equal."
Poile won his 1,320th game as general manager March 1 in a 4-2 win at Edmonton, passing Glen Sather's 1,319 wins. The Predators still had to finish a road trip, so the celebration waited until Thursday before a game against the Anaheim Ducks — the team the Predators beat last May to clinch their first Western Conference title.
The Predators had "1320" painted into the ice behind each net before their 2-0 win Tuesday night over Dallas.
Thursday's festivities started with a video recapping Poile's career . Langway presented his former boss with a Capitals' jersey with the number 594 to commemorate Poile's wins in Washington. Bettman gave Poile the score sheet from his first win with the Capitals and last week's record victory framed as a keepsake.
Also on hand were Dick Patrick, who hired Poile as general manager of the Capitals, and Cliff Fletcher, who gave Poile a job in the front office of the then-Atlanta Flames. Peter Bondra, a Slovakian star who played for Poile in Washington, recalled before the game that he didn't know if he could play in the NHL until Poile not only saw something in him but helped ease his transition to the United States.
The Predators also gave Poile an engraved silver platter and announced a scholarship in Poile's name at Scott Hamilton's learn-to-skate program.
Poile wrapped up the 15-minute celebration by talking about his love for hockey, "the ultimate team sport," and thanked everyone who helped him along the way.
"It is an honour to be the general manager of the Nashville Predators," Poile said.
In his 36 years as a general manager, Poile just got to his first Stanley Cup Final last year with the Predators — they lost to Pittsburgh in six games. Nashville is on pace for its best season ever with 95 points through 66 games going into Thursday night, on track for 118 points. That would top the franchise-record of 110 points by the 2006-07 team.
"Coming here, I'm not sure he thought he would be here as long as he (has) when he first came in in 1997," Fitzgerald said. "But when you have success, you can stay as long as you want, and I'm sure the door's going to be open to him for a long time."
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker