Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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For about the first decade of their existence, the Columbus Blue Jackets were not only somewhat disrespected across the NHL landscape, but in their own hometown as well. But since their first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs back in 2009, the city of Columbus has jumped on board with this team and has made Nationwide Arena a ruckus environment for the opposition. While Columbus may not yet be at the level of a Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Chicago or Boston as a hockey town, the Blue Jackets and their dedicated fans sure made a great case for it as they hosted the 2015 NHL All-Star Game this last weekend.
Before a few years ago, I’ll admit that I wasn’t a very big Blue Jackets fan. Tar and feather me all you want, but it was hard for me to get invested into a new and unproven franchise with a lack of success. Around 2010, some of my friends had started to call the Jackets their own and when somebody offers you free tickets to a sport you’ve really never watched before, you follow suit. Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this team grow into a consistent playoff contender and when the opportunity to attend this year’s NHL All-Star Game with my good buddy, Josh Overholser, presented itself, I wasn’t going to pass up a once in a lifetime opportunity.
First of all, the All-Star Weekend was much more than I could’ve ever imagined. From the Winter Park and the Fan Fair to the Skills Competition and the game itself, the experience was unlike any other. While attending the Skills Competition on Saturday night to see the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Patrice Bergeron, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Johansen unleash their skills, I figured that other hockey cities would invade the event and overtake the hometown faithful, but that wasn’t the case.
Whenever the CBJ’s own Ryan Johansen or Nick Foligno was placed on center stage for either night, the place went nuts! Even when Johansen competed in the Breakaway Challenge and removed his own jersey to reveal an Ohio State Football jersey, the arena erupted and the other competitors didn’t even stand a chance. Also, the fact that Foligno was named the home team captain and the crowd was undoubtedly cheering for Team Foligno on both nights made it pretty clear that Columbus takes their hockey seriously.
Of everything that took place at the All-Star Game, there was one occurrence where the city solidified itself to the NHL as a hockey town and that they are here to stay. Near the end of the third period, the crowd and viewers were asked to vote for the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player from a group of Team Foligno’s Ryan Johansen and Team Toews’ Patrice Bergeron and John Tavares. Even though Team Toews defeated Team Foligno, 17-12, and Tavares scored four goals while Bergeron added a goal and four assists, the hometown faithful unanimously voted their own Johansen as the ASG MVP with two goals and two assists. It isn’t very often that a player whom didn’t score the most goals and was from the losing team gets awarded the MVP, but since the league left the vote entirely up to the fans, Columbus knew they had something to prove, and without a question, they did it.
For years you could argue that Columbus, Ohio will only ever be a football town, and even though I believe it will always love it’s football, this past weekend proved to me that hockey has joined that conversation. With no doubt in my mind, the Blue Jackets and their fans have turned the state capital into a hockey town. GO JACKETS!