I’ve gotten into an odd new habit this year: I check the ESPN website the morning after a Columbus Blue Jackets to see how the team fared. I did it this morning and learned that they won . . . again.
I don’t know beans about hockey. I also don’t know if, or how, I could watch a CBJ game on TV. I do know, however, that the team has been winning a lot this season. As we roll into December, the Blue Jackets are 13-5-4. In their last 10 games they’re an even more impressive 7-1-2. You don’t have to know much about hockey to know that a team with that kind of recent record is playing well. My friends who know hockey say that the team finally has a good offense, an even better defense, and a capable goalie. (Then they lapse into increasingly enthusiastic and animated hockeybabble about first lines, power plays, power play kills, and other inexplicable topics, and my understanding of what is being discussed falls to zilch and I start wondering what the hell happened on the most recent episode of HBO’s Westworld.)
What’s interesting about all of this to me is what it might mean to Columbus. Our fair city has two professional sports franchises — the Blue Jackets and the Columbus Crew soccer team. The Crew has a very devoted following, but even though they’ve been extremely successful they’ve never really captured the city’s imagination. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have never been successful. Usually they get off to a terrible start and are effectively out of the running a month or two into the season — which isn’t exactly a recipe for developing legions of new hockey fans. As a result, by December sports fans in Columbus are talking about Ohio State’s upcoming bowl game, the prospects for the basketball Buckeyes, and not much else.
I think there’s plenty of room for more dedicated sports fandom in Columbus, outside of our passion for Ohio State — provided the fans have something to root for. I’m hoping the Blue Jackets continue to play well so they can test my hypothesis. This year, I’m detecting a bit of a buzz about the team, even apart from the hockeyheads. And of course it would be great for the city if the CBJ made a run in the NHL playoffs and brought some excitement, visitors, and hotel and restaurant and bar patrons to the Arena District.
So, let’s go, Jackets! (Clap . . . clap . . . clapclapclap.) Who knows? I might actually go to a game this year and have a pal explain icing to me for the 45th time.