The NHL All-Star Game — and the hockey spotlight — is coming to Nashville.
And it could mean millions to Music City and bolster hockey's stature in Middle Tennessee.
"The whole event is for the fans and I think that's going to be great," Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said. "Our fans deserve that and our city deserves that. It's nice to showcase our own city."
The NHL on Friday at 11 a.m. is expected to name Bridgestone Arena the site of the 2016 All-Star Game, according to NHL sources familiar with the announcement.
Typically held over four days in late January, the NHL All-Star Game showcases the league's best players in the game, a skills competition and fan-friendly community events away from the arena. It can mean major business to host cities.
The 2011 NHL All-Star weekend hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes generated about $11.4 million in direct visitor spending for Raleigh and Wake County, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The All-Star Game comes as Nashville prepares to host 12 consecutive SEC basketball tournaments beginning in 2015, as well as the Tennessee vs. Alabama-Birmingham season-opening football game next fall. In April, the city hosted the Women's Final Four basketball tournament, generating $20 million in visitor spending.
For Nashville hotels, the event would mean hundreds of rooms for owners, team personnel and fans at a time of the year when business is typically a little softer, said Tony Phillips, general manager at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel.
The city's hotels have committed to blocking off rooms and he estimates Vanderbilt has blocked off 200 of its 340 rooms for the event.
"The general draw to the city is huge," Phillips said. "It continues to keep us in the national spotlight, which is good. We want the positive momentum. It's good for business all around."
Nashville submitted bids in June to host the game in 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019.
Nashville Sports Council CEO Scott Ramsey could not comment on the specifics of what will be announced Friday but said the city has been pursuing the event for several years.
"I don't think it's been any secret that we've been chasing it pretty hard with the Predators and mayor's office," Ramsey said. "If we are fortunate enough to host that event for the NHL, I think Nashville will prove itself again to be a great destination for major sporting events."
An event of this scale would entail the Music City Center for fan and youth activities, several hotels, a core of volunteers and a strong marketing plan to showcase the city to international media and national fan bases, Ramsey said.
Some events at the last All-Star Game in Ottawa in 2012 included a fan fair, public night skating outdoors and concert.
Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. President and CEO Butch Spyridon said in April that the city's selection for an All-Star Game seemed to be "imminent" after ongoing discussions with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said it was a matter of "when, not if."
Gerry Helper, Predators Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, declined comment Wednesday. But, he said, "We look forward to Friday's announcement."
Bettman, Predators Chairman Thomas Cigarran, Mayor Karl Dean, Bridgestone Americas CEO Gary Garfield and Predators/Bridgestone Arena CEO Jeff Cogen are expected to be at Friday's announcement, according to a NHL news release.
Nashville would be the NHL's third straight first-time host of the event following Ottawa and the 2015 game in Columbus in January. The game would be another signature moment solidifying hockey's stature in Middle Tennessee. The $14 million Ford Ice Center opened in Antioch in September to give the city six ice sheets and another opportunity for learning skating skills or playing hockey.
"It's going to be very exciting for this city," said Predators captain Shea Weber, who played in the last three All-Star Games. "It's a great city for entertainment value but also it's a good hockey city."
"The people here love hockey. This will help maybe gain more interest as well. But I think in saying that, it's come a long way and I think it's a great place to play."
Rinne said the game day experience at Bridgestone Arena could translate into a strong All-Star Game for fans and show other traditional hockey markets what Nashville hockey is about.
"When you come to our home games there's always a great atmosphere," Rinne said. "I'm sure there are some people who think Nashville is not a hockey city but I'm sure by that time, everybody is going to know that it is a hockey town."
Reach Eric Stromgren at (615) 259-8325 or on twitter@estromgren. Contributing: Dave Ammenheuser, Jamie McGee.