Legendary Nashville predator Pekka Rinne honored with statue
Scott Wise grabs a piece of sand-colored clay from a table made of 2-by-4s. The oily clay is warm to the touch, warmed by an industrial lamp a few inches away, so it’s easy to roll it between its left thumb and index finger.
Wise removes a piece of the block and, using his index finger like a brush, he applies a stroke of clay to the base of his sculpture. As he walks away, the surface is rough to the touch, like an impressionist painting. He leaves it like that on purpose.
“It gives more power to the piece if it has some texture,” Wise says, scanning his work from top to bottom.
Every decision in his artistic process is calculated. He’s working on a sculpture of one of his heroes, after all.
The Nashville Predators enlisted Clarksville-based sculptor and firefighter Wise to create a life-size statue of legendary Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne. He will stand guard outside Bridgestone Arena, where Rinne played out his 15-year NHL career.
Wise is meticulous in his craft – that’s part of why the Predators picked him. But in creating the Rinne statue, Wise wants to be perfect.
“If there’s something wrong, we’ll make sure it’s right,” Wise says. “I’m a little crazy about that stuff. It must be true.”
Pekka Rinne’s Legacy in Nashville
Rinne retired from hockey last summer. His contribution on the ice – 15 seasons, 772 games, 414 wins and 19,978 saves – is only part of his Nashville legacy.
“We believe that Pekka has not only had a Hall of Fame-worthy on-ice career, but his contributions to this community are immeasurable,” Predators chief marketing officer Bill Wickett said.
In February, Rinne’s No. 35 became the first retired jersey in Preds history. Moments after the jersey was taken to the rafters, Predators broadcaster Pete Weber announced the organization’s plan for the statue.
“I said over a year ago that I could never have dreamed my jersey would be retired, and I feel the same way about this build outside the arena that I called home. me for over 15 years,” Rinne said.
Rinne is so beloved in Nashville that Mayor John Cooper named February 24 “Pekka Rinne Day.” He even has a goat at the Nashville Zoo named after him.
“If you’re going to look up to someone, Pekka is the one to go for,” Wise said.
How Pekka Rinne immortalizes himself in bronze
Wise had an hour with Rinne on February 25 to gather all the information he would need to craft a life-size statue. He took hundreds of photos and measurements, moving in circles as Rinne did her best to stay still.
The sculptor sent the images to a company in Portugal who 3D printed the scans on three-inch sections of polystyrene. Wise assembled the polystyrene like a 6ft 5in puzzle and began covering it with clay in July.
When satisfied with the appearance of the modeling clay, Wise will send the model to a foundry, where it will be coated in wax and rubber to make a mold. The mold will then be filled with bronze and the statue will be ready for inspection and installation.
The Predators picked Wise because they knew he “would do it right,” Wickett said, but also because he likes the organization. Season ticket holder Wise had his jersey signed after measuring Rinne.
“We liked the idea of a local artist, and we liked the idea – although it wasn’t crucial – that he was a hockey fan,” Wickett said.
Wise makes the statue extra sturdy in anticipation that fans will want to rub it for good luck or climb on it the next time the Predators contest the Stanley Cup.
“Fans will give it its own little story,” Wise said.
Keep the mystery alive
Wise crouched down like a baseball catcher to do some touch-ups on the statue’s leg pads.
Standing, his joints protest.
“Snap, crackle, pop,” he jokes.
Wise has been a sculptor since 1988, when he was a student at Austin Peay. It’s not as easy as it once was to lie down on the cement floor – or get up.
As a firefighter, Wise spends 24 hours on duty every three days. Between these shifts, he works up to 12 hours straight on the Rinne statue in an unmarked Clarksville storage warehouse owned by a friend.
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The makeshift studio is “cluttered,” Wise says, with only a few square feet of clear space for him to work. But at least it has a security system to keep prying eyes away.
Only a few people know where to find the sculpture: Wise, his family, the friend who owns the building, two journalists and a member of the Preds organization who once dropped off a bag of old Rinne tablets at use as references.
What the statue will look like is a mystery to the general public. Rinne posed for him, so he has an idea of what to expect, but even he won’t see it until his reveal early next year.
Until then, her appearance is a treasured secret, and Wise intends to keep it that way.