NASHVILLE -- Already a larger-than-life character in the eyes of many Nashville Predators fans, Pekka Rinne became that much more so in front of Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.
The Predators unveiled an 11-foot, five-inch bronze statue of the former goalie, a 900-pound likeness that captured Rinne -- mask off -- raising his stick in tribute to the fans.
It was modeled on a pose Rinne struck after his last game, when he recorded his 60th NHL shutout, making 30 saves in a 5-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 10, 2021.
"I feel so humbled," Rinne said in front of hundreds of cheering fans. "A guy from Kempele, Finland, a small city, and to come to Nashville and 16-17 years later have a statue, and the relationship I have with the organization, the city of Nashville, the fans … It means the world to me. It's not just a statue. Obviously, it's a lot more. But it is very meaningful."
Rinne, 40, is considered the most impactful player in franchise history.
Chosen in the eighth round (No. 258) of the 2004 NHL Draft, he played each of his 15 seasons with the Predators. Rinne is their leader in nearly every goalie category, including games played (683), wins (369), goals-against average (2.43), saves (17,627) and shutouts. He was a four-time Vezina Tropy finalist as the top goalie in the NHL and won the award following the 2017-18 season.
Rinne had his No. 35 jersey retired by the organization last year and, according to the organization, on Saturday became the first Europe-born goalie to have a statue honoring him in North America.
"He meant a heck of a lot," said Predators forward Colton Sissons, who played eight seasons with Rinne. "He's the greatest Pred ever. You don't get a statue if you're not a great man and a great player. So, he kind of epitomizes what it is to be a Nashville Predator."
Rinne said he was stunned when the Predators first approached him about the statue.
"That statue felt like, 'Oh come on, it's too much,'" Rinne said. "In the city of Nashville, there are so many icons from pop culture and sports and different sports. Just to have mine … it makes me feel small, like, 'Me, you want a statue of me?' … But it's unbelievable. It's awesome."
His fiancée, Erika, and son, Paulus, were on hand for the ceremony, as well as several of his former teammates.
Rinne hopes the statue brings him one extra benefit in years to come.
"Maybe it helps me get into the games in the future," he said with a smile. "I don't have to ask for tickets. Who knows? I just have to point, 'Hey, that's me.'"