Friday, February 24, 2017

2010-11 Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne Jersey

When Nashville Predators fan Tim Morrell found out his brother-in-law, Colonel Tim Kopra has been selected as one of the astronauts for flight STS-133 of the space shuttle Discovery, he had an idea.

Tim Kopra, Tim Kopra
Colonel Tim Kopra

While the main goal of the mission would be to deliver spare components and install a new module for the International Space Station, Morrell knew each crew member would be allowed to bring a limited amount of personal items into space, so he asked Kopra if he would be willing to bring a Pekka Rinne Nashville Predators jersey along for the ride.

It was to be Kopra's second trip into space, the first flight STS-127 coming in July of 2009 aboard Endeavour, which took him to the International Space Station, where he spent 60 days in orbit before coming back on the shuttle Discovery flight STS-128. During STS-127, Kopra, who's grandfather immigrated to the United States from Finland, brought with a Kalevala Medal, which is awarded for Service to Finnish Culture. During that first flight, he spoke with the President of Finland Tarja Halonen via a video teleconference and then later traveled to Finland, where he presented her with the actual medal which he had taken into space.

Kopra and Halonen, Kopra and Halonen
Timothy Kopra with Finnish President Halonen

Morell's idea to ask Kopra to bring a jersey of a Finnish goaltender from his favorite team came from another crew member aboard Kopra's original flight, Canadian Julie Payette, who appropriately brought with a Maurice "Rocket" Richard jersey for her trip into space, stating she brought "The Rocket" into the rocket to celebrate the Canadiens 100th Anniversary.

Payette Richard, Payette Richard
Canadian astronaut Julie Payette poses with the Rocket Richard jersey she took into space

Morell and his wife Beth brought Kopra and his wife to their first ever game in December of 2007, a 4-3 Nashville win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, making sure all four were appropriately dressed in Predators jerseys.

Kopras and Morrells, Kopras and Morrells
The Kopras and Morrells enjoying the Predators game

With Kopra having been given so much media coverage in Finland for his Finnish ancestry, choice of the Kalevala Medal to take with on his flight and subsequent meeting with President Halonen, Rinne was already familiar with Colonel Kopra, and was honored to learn that he intended to take one of his jerseys with him on his second flight.

"It's a big deal even in Finland," Rinne said. "He has been on the news several times. That's something that the Finnish people know well. I was really surprised when I heard about it. It's awesome. Obviously I'm proud of that. It is such and exciting thing."

Rinne Predators, Rinne Predators
Pekka Rinne

Kopra was scheduled for two space walks during his flight, which will be his last prior to retiring as an astronaut as well as the Army. The flight will also be the next-to-last mission for the space shuttle program in it's 30 year history.

Unfortunatley, with training for the mission having begun in October of 2009, 16 months prior to the scheduled flight, Kopra was injured in a biking accident on January 19, 2011 badly enough, said to be a possible broken hip, that he had to be replaced on the crew by astronaut Stephen Bowen with the scheduled launch less than five weeks away.

STS-133 was originally scheduled to launch on November 1, 2010, but mechanical delays pushed back the date several times, and it was during those delays that Kopra suffered his accident, putting the plan for the Predators jersey in space in serious jeopardy, as it was unknown at the time if Kopra's personal items would remain onboard for the flight.

After all the complex issues which delayed the mission had been sorted and solved, STS-133 was launched into orbit on this date in 2011.

Discovery, Discovery
The space shuttle Discovery

It docked with the International Space Station and successfully delivered it's payload to the space station, eventually returning to Earth on March 9, 2011 after 14 days.

On the day of the launch a NASA spokesperson reported that the Predators jersey was not listed on the official flight manifest, but left open a slight possibility that it did make in on board, but following the flight Kopra's wife relayed to her sister Beth Morrell that the #35 Rinne jersey was among the items removed from Discovery following it's return.

The story didn't end there however, as four years later on March 21, 2015 Kopra presented Rinne with the actual jersey that flew into space on the Endevour and then dropped the ceremonial first puck for the Predators game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Tim Kopra and Pekka Rinne
Kopra presents Rinne with his jersey that flew into space

Despite not being able to be a part of STS-133 when the Rinne jersey went into space, it was not the end of Kopra's career, as he returned to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz TMA-19M. During a space walk on January 15, 2016, his suit began leaking water into his helmet, which caused his walk to be cut short. He returned to Earth after spending 186 days in space.

Today's featured jersey is a 2010-11 Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne jersey. The jersey chosen to make the trip into space was not a Predators home or road jersey, but their short-lived blue alternate jersey that was only worn for two seasons, 2009-10 and 2010-11 before being dropped when the Predators introduced a brand new pair of home and road jerseys for 2011-12. They have not worn an alternate jersey since.

The Predators alternate jersey was unusual in that it completely eliminated the use of the color gold and had unconventional color-on-color checkerboard stripes around the arms and waist. The nearly monochromatic look was part of a small, brief trend in alternate jerseys, along with those worn during that time frame by the Florida Panthers, whose two-tone blue third jersey contained no red or gold, the St. Louis Blues, which had no medium blue on their navy blue jerseys, unlike their home and roads, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose cream and Columbia and navy blue jerseys lacked any red whatsoever. Additionally, the main crests used by Florida, St. Louis and Columbus were all brand new circular logos not worn on their home or road jerseys, all of which caused fans to wonder about this recent crop of jerseys that completely ignored a basic color of a team's identity.

After playing for Oulun Kärpät in Finland and being drafted 258th overall with the final pick of the eighth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the 6' 5" Finn Rinne came to North America for the 2005-06 season to play with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL, eventually leading the club to the Calder Cup Finals. That same season he played a pair of games with the Predators of the NHL, earning his first victory in the process.

After two more seasons with the Admirals, Rinne became the Predators #1 goaltender beginning with the 2008-09 season, raising his win totals from 29 to 32 and then 33 in 2010-11, 9 of those by shutout. Since his jersey went into space, he is now playing in his sixth season since then, twice winning over 40 games and four times having a goals against average of under 2.50 while currently on pace for a fifth.

Nashville Predators 2009-10 F jersey
Nashville Predators 2009-10 B jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2010-11 Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne jersey. Today's bonus jersey made it's debut in 2007-08 with the league wide introduction of the new Reebok Edge jerseys. For the introduction of the Edge jerseys, Reebok created a limited number of templates, which resulted in Nashville's design sharing a similar appearance to the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and to a lesser degree, the Atlanta Thrashers.

Nashville Predators 09-10 jersey, Nashville Predators 09-10 jersey
Nashville Predators 09-10 jersey, Nashville Predators 09-10 jersey

In addition to the yellow piping, derisively called "the apron strings", the most maddening design element of this style jersey was, while the top side of the arms was a consistent sliver color, the underside of the sleeves was navy blue for the upper half, before unexplainably changing to white half way down for no reason whatsoever! Why the underside of the arms had to change color on the team's home dark jerseys at the midpoint, we will never fathom, especially in light of the teams road white jerseys carrying the same color from the neck to the wrist like a proper design should.

Rinne Predators, Rinne Predators
Rinne in a blue Predators jersey, showing how the underside of the sleeve change color in midstream

Today's video section begins with the launch of STS-133, the final flight of Discovery.


Here, Kopra presents Rinne with his famous jersey and then drops the ceremonial first puck.


Next up is a collection of Rinne highlights, showing the Finnish net minder at his sprawling, diving, denying best, set to a great soundtrack.


Finally, Colonel Kopra answering questions (in English) during his trip to Finland after his flight on STS-127.

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