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Justin Bradford grew into his fantasy

Bonnie Bucy Living Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 9:31 PM

By the time he turned 32, he was well ensconced in a weekly award-winning radio show on the Nashville Predators and an award-winning blog on hockey that includes articles written and submitted by people from all over the United Stated and Canada.

Add to this the release of Bradford’s new book, “Nashville Predators: The Making of Smashville,” an interestingly written book that tells the strategically maneuvered plan that brought the right people with the right plan to Nashville to put the right players together to form a winning team that Nashville and the surrounding area took into their arms and loved.

Born in Pontiac, Mich., his father, Jerry Bradford, worked for General Motors. When Justin Bradford was but a baby, the family was uprooted to Oxford, Mich., just north of Detroit. By the time Justin was 7, they moved to Tennessee where his father worked for the Saturn plant. When it came time for college, Bradford had applied to Cumberland University.

“One day the mail came, and an envelope addressed to me fell out. It was from CU and told me I had been accepted,” Bradford said. “I became a CU student for the next five and a half years. Why the extra time? I broke my ankle and changed my major about half way through. I really enjoyed myself at Cumberland. I learned a lot and I made so many friends, several that influenced me about the way I handle my day and even my night jobs today.”

When asked if he had done any acting prior to his time at Cumberland, Bradford responded, “Not really. I was a goofball and clowned around. I helped some of my buddies with their videos and even made a couple of videos, but stage acting I had never done until I went to CU. Then, I kind of got recruited into it. I was told I was rather kind of kooky and my looks fitted the role. The play was ‘You Can’t Take It with You.’ I was told I would be pretending to play the xylophone and appear to be enjoying myself while I had this crazy laugh. I told them I thought I could do that. And it took off from there.

“I got several more roles and a lot of training for my voice and enunciation. It helped develop poise and lessen any fear of speaking before people. That was what helped me with my voice for radio, my ability to interview people and to just talk to people, especially ones you meet for the first time. It’s important to know how to present yourself to people. There are all kinds out there.”

Bradford has a bachelor of arts degree with emphasis on theater.

“I was going for another minor when they dropped the particular curriculum I was working on, and I had no way to finish,” Bradford said. “One professor I learned a lot from was Dr. Ron Turner. So many times in politics you’re afraid to voice your opinions because if they’re not sync with that professor, he’ll come down on you and punish you with your grade. Dr. Turner wasn’t like that. He was fair and he taught me that two people can see things from different standpoints, but still respect one another. People could never understand when I said I took theater, criminal justice and poly-sci courses because I liked them and they all helped me in communicating.”

Bradford said in the second half of his senior year at Cumberland, he worked in the development department at Cumberland and acquired an internship to accompany a class to the aquarium in Chattanooga. 

“I was sitting behind Jonathon Hawkins, and we got to talking. He told me there was a job available. I got it and was able to know and work with a lot more people,” said Bradford. “Then, Brian Harville left and I got to work in PR for the entire school where I learned even more, which I’ve carried over into my life now with promoting my blog and radio show. After CU, I went to work for Glass America for two years. Then, I did a lot of market analyzing and ended up at the Nashville Symphony, which I love because I’m back in the arts and nonprofit.”

Bradford loved hockey from childhood when he and his father would watch the Red Wings play. Steve Yzerman was his hockey idol. But, don’t worry Predator fans, Bradford changed his allegiances upon the inception of the Predators organization. Upon graduating college, he quickly became a season ticket holder in the rowdy, but dedicated, Cell Block, Section 303. That’s where his super fandom was born.

“I wrote a guest blog on the 303. I had never written much because I didn’t feel I could write about anything I didn’t know a whole lot about,” he said. “I was invited to be a guest on a podcast. It was one of those things I was intrigued with. I got to be co-host on that and then host. I stayed with that for a season. 

“Then we decided we wanted to do something on our own. So, in 2012 with Ben Butzbach and Glynne Blackwell, we established Penalty Box Radio. This show and site not only covers the Nashville Predators, but also features stories on prospects and junior and college hockey.”

The show was picked up almost immediately by ESPN. Both Bradford and Penalty Box Radio have won Toast of Music City awards. In 2013, Bradford placed second in the best sports reporter award category. In 2014, Bradford won the best sports reporter award, and Penalty Box Radio was voted the second best blog in Nashville. 

“I eventually want a network that’s all about hockey, not just the Predators. I want to educate people about the game and how you have to look at it,” Bradford said. “In other words, how does a player get into it? Most of the time, they get into it in college, so most colleges need to be recruiting. We want to be more like Canada where the radio channels don’t just talk about one team, but all of them from high school to college to professional.”

His book is available for sale. It’s clever story is written with Bradford telling a portion of each chapter and players or people seriously involved with the whole making of the unbelievable and heart warming success story on the building of the Nashville Predators.

Bradford’s vacations revolve around hockey. He travels to Dallas, Canada, Carolina and any other place that features the skating sport. He covers junior hockey in Toronto, Seattle and any other cities it calls home.

“I’m so excited by the fact Nashville is now known everywhere as a serious hockey Town,” said Bradford with a big smile.

He has three nieces and nephews. He goes to their games, recitals, plays and other events. 

Bradford has one other being living with him. It’s a cat named Pepper, a stray that showed up at his door right after he came to Lebanon years ago. She was looking for a home, and his big heart gave her one. He said he was not necessarily a cat person before that, but she changed that.   

The “Making of Smashville” is a smashing story.

Contact Bradford at 615-775-7692. He can be emailed at justinbradford83@gmail.com or check out his web site at penaltyboxradio.com.

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