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Where it all began

A pair of Flyers return to play the Nashville Predators, the team they began their NHL careers with.

Friday, 01.13.2012 / 4:21 PM ET / News
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Where it all began
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For most players walking into an opposing team's building there's usually one mind-set. Get in and get out, and hopefully with a victory in hand.
Kimmo Timonen spent eight seasons with Nashville (1998 to 2007).

Well for Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, they certainly want that victory, but returning to Bridgestone Arena is like walking back into your old high school, or college.

It's a place where they have spent so much of their career, the only part of their career that they have known, and to a team that they have meant a great deal too and vice-versa.

"It's the second time in five years and like you said, it always brings back memories," said Timonen. "Tonight I'm going to see my non-hockey friends. I was here nine years, which is a long time, so it's nice to get back here."

Although drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville is the place where Timonen began his career, developed and became an All-Star twice during his nine-year tenure with the Predators.

Timonen has many people to catch up with during the Flyers rare and brief stay in Nashville. One of them still behind the bench and another, the team's architect.

"I just talked to him for about 10 minutes," said Timonen of Nashville head coach Barry Trotz. "He's still the same guy; he's a really good guy and a very good coach. I was actually thinking about how many guys are still here and I counted five guys, plus the training staff and coaches."

The other, and perhaps most significant in getting Timonen's career off the ground is Predators general manager David Poile.

"My career started here. Without these guys and without Mr. Poile, I don't know where I would be today. I have to say I'm thankful for him."

Because of Poile, Timonen was a mainstay on the Preds blueline and was able to appear in 523 games, where he recorded 79 goals and 222 assists for 301 points.

In just his third year with Nashville, Timonen met someone he would share almost all of his hockey life with. An 18-year-old Scott Hartnell.

"I actually asked Scott 3-4 weeks ago, 'Are there any other two guys who played almost 800 hundred games with two teams?' And I don't think there is, so we're really close friends. He's having a great year. It's nice to share these kind of feelings with him and he was a big part of this team too."
Scott Hartnell spent six seasons with the Predators (2000 to 2007).

In fact Hartnell and Timonen have played 776 regular season games together in the NHL, 416 of which were with Nashville.

Making the team right out of his first ever training camp, Hartnell spent his first six seasons with Timonen and the Predators, and combined with their first season with the Flyers, were roommates for a total of seven years.

Hartnell is no doubt having a career-year with the Flyers, and among fans, has established himself as a fan favorite and gritty forward. Prior to that, Hartnell posted 93 goals and 118 assists for 211 points in 436 games with the Predators.

"Playing my first game and making the playoffs for the first time; Playing in this city is very cool," say Hartnell on what he thinks of first coming back. The way this city embraced us with the cheering, the country music, it was just a great city to start my career."

For Timonen and Hartnell there are too many memories to recount, but certain ones stand out more so than others.

"I remember the first time I was named captain," said Timonen. "I was able to be captain for one year, so it was a pretty cool experience."

Said Hartnell, "The first walk down the hall here [with Kimmo], you see Craig "Partner" Baugh, the team's [locker room attendant] who does all of the road teams, and he just puts a big smile on your face. He's the one guy that I'd look forward to seeing every morning coming into practice. If you lost a tough game or a couple in-a-row, you come back home and see his face."

Timonen and Hartnell will get yet another homecoming as the take to the ice tomorrow night against the Predators, but just because the town holds a special meaning, doesn't mean they have forgotten why they're here.

"It kind of feels like coming home, but at the same time I'm really excited to play tomorrow, to face the Predators and see the fans again, but once the puck drops," added Timonen. "It has nothing to do with Nashville, it's just another game to try and get two points."

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