Tonights game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild may seem fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and when the 2016/2017 season is all said and done, it really won’t matter who won and who lost this game.
Even Wild Coach Bruce Boudreau attempted to downplay the significance of tonights match-up.
“It’s not the Super Bowl, it’s not the Stanley Cup, it’s game 36. It’s got a good little storyline. That’s all it is.”
However, for a franchise and fanbase in Columbus that has long battled to become relevant, having a game in December that is garnering national attention is a massive win, regardless of the outcome on the ice.
So on a day where the Columbus Blue Jackets are close to the center of the hockey world, I thought about some of the darker days, when it looked like professional hockey and the state of Ohio would never be a match.
For years it was rumoured that the Blue Jackets would eventually be relocated, they were simply an expansion franchise gone bad and couldn’t reign in the type of support needed to support an NHL team past the honeymoon phase.
But with some success on the ice, the team developed a rabid fan base that quite honestly loves hockey. If you need any proof just check out the work that “The CBJ Artillery” do. Organizing bar nights for fans, producing clothing lines and coining the tag-line “We Are The 5th Line”. A phrase that become the calling card for Blue Jackets fans during the franchise’s second ever playoff run in 2014. They have brought together the most diehard Jackets fans , and in my opinion, have helped grow the game in Columbus more than any other
individual group has. A successful group like that is the sign of a healthy franchise.
This is no longer a fan base that will simply come for the highs of a winning team either.
Coming off the momentum of the 2014 playoff run, this was supposed to be a young core that co
uld keep winning hockey in Ohio. As you know, things didn’t go to plan, as injuries plagued the Jackets for the next 2 seasons and they failed to have any success on the ice. Yet attendance stayed strong and support never fell. This was a franchise that had grabbed hold of the local community and wasn’t going to let go any time soon.
Maybe that’s what’s made this run in 2016 all the more satisfactory, the fans got a taste of real success and essentially had it ripped away for years. Now after supporting this team through a couple of really low years, they feel rewarded. They earned this streak more than anyone.
Back to the game tonight against the Minnesota Wild which, on the surface, appears to be a big game between two teams fighting to keep their franchise record win streaks alive. But dig a little deeper and it’s much more than that.
It’s a milestone for a franchise that is finally seeing itself come to relevance while being talked about amongst hockey’s elite. It’s getting a game in December between them and their expansion partners from 2000 broadcasted on Canadian and American National Television.
It’s seeing all the years of mediocrity end, and finally having a sense of relevance in the hockey world.