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Sports Business Journal issues
Volume 22 No. 44
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Michelle Kennedy, Nashville Predators

Photo: John Russell / Nashville Predators
Photo: John Russell / Nashville Predators
Photo: John Russell / Nashville Predators

In 10 years, the Nashville Predators have gone from a franchise on the brink of relocation and ownership uncertainty to one of the strongest markets in the NHL with a game-day experience that is among the best in pro sports.

Reflecting on this drastic shift and the team’s magical run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final highlighted by the tens of thousands that took to the city’s streets for watch parties, Predators Chief Operating Officer Michelle Kennedy said one thing comes to mind: “It’s certainly a lot more fun now than it was back then.”

Michelle Kennedy

Chief Operating Officer, Nashville Predators
Born: Tell City, Ind. (hometown is Hawesville, Ky.)
Education: B.A., economics, and J.D., Vanderbilt University

“When I think back of what shape the organization was in and where it is now, I get chills,” said Kennedy, who joined the team in 2008 as in-house counsel after serving as an associate director of athletics at Vanderbilt University and as an auditor at KPMG. “You wake up every morning and pinch yourself.”

But Kennedy, who oversees all governance and compliance, legal, finance, IT and human resources matters, and the rest of the organization have no plans to rest on their laurels.

“We love riding the big wave, but we’re not people who are satisfied,” she said. This summer, those changes include tweaks to game presentation and arena upgrades, including a new audio system, control room and LED ribbon boards. 

“We’ve coined this term around here, unapologetically irreverent,” she said. “We do hockey our way, and we think it’s very endearing — we love to watch people have fun.”

— Ian Thomas

Getting to know...

Networking works best when:
I have a glass of wine and I’m not trying to network.
Misperception of working in sports: That we just hang out with players and coaches. We are certainly a resource for them, but we spend our days behind the scenes dealing with things that have very little to do with who is playing on the second line in tonight’s game! There is also a misconception that the hours are “too long.” In reality, if you’re passionate about what you do, you will work many hours, regardless of the industry.
Proudest professional achievement: I am proud to be a part of an organization that has achieved a remarkable perception shift with respect to Nashville as a hockey town. We do hockey our way and are unapologetically irreverent about our business — being different is in our professional DNA! 
Woman in sports business I’d like to meet: Robin Roberts. She’s a great sports professional but through her well-documented health struggles, she has also shown a very real and relatable side of herself that both athletes and non-athletes can understand. 
I wish I’d known at my career’s start: You will make mistakes and that is OK. We all learn as much from our mistakes as we do our successes.