Friday, March 14, 2014

The rise and passion of Columbus

It took the Pittsburgh Penguins 24 years.
It took the Los Angeles Kings 45 years.
The Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and Vancouver Canucks are among those that have never done it.

Know what it is yet?

Yep.  That would be winning the Stanley Cup.

These teams have been in the league for quite some time now.  In the case of the Sabres and Canucks, they were part of expansion in 1970.  For the other three teams, they were part of the 1967 expansion.  All of these teams have had varying degrees of both success and failure in their time in the league.  For these, and all teams for that matter, there will be periods of disappointment.  Columbus knows this principle first hand.  Since joining the league in 2000, the Jackets have had one trip to the playoffs.  That trip to the playoffs resulted in a first round sweep.

Pierre LeBrun wrote a blog the other day on on the recent play of the Blue Jackets.  In it, he touched on the attendance situation at Nationwide Arena.  He stated that the Jackets rank 28th in the NHL in average attendance, at 14,159 per home date.  Critics would look at that number and say that Columbus is not a hockey town.  That is the farthest thing from the truth.  In fact, Lebrun flipped the argument and stated he couldn't believe that there were as many "hard-core" fans in Columbus as there are after 13 seasons of mostly misery.  To him, it suggested that the market is begging for this team to have success on a regular basis.

This got me to think.  How does a team with as much disappointment have as many passionate fans?  I asked a question on Twitter: "How did you become a Blue Jackets fan?"  I got many great answers.  Here are some of those:

@CBJBattalion: Parents were Chill fans and when the Jackets came to town, we never looked back.  I still remember being at the first ever game.

@Bobs_Cops_CBJ: Once was a huge Dayton Bombers fan, then they became no more.  Saw a Gems game a few years back & once I saw #CBJ I was hooked.

@Its_Just_Wayne: I switched from being a loyal Pens fan to a die hard #CBJ backer this year after buying half-season tickets.

@chrash1069: Son began playing hockey in July. #CBJ is his fave team, so I started paying attention & fell in love with the game and team.

@cstephens123194: I was 3 days old when I went to my first Chill game.  When the Jackets came, I went to the first game.  Fan from birth 'til death.

@FiretheCannon14: I was a Columbus Chill fan, went to a bunch of games and was clamming for a pro team.  #CBJ came to town...hooked from the start.

@SaganPaul: I'm from Massachusetts and I follow and root on my former Falcons players and their new teammates.  Also the CBJ fan accounts rock.

@jlittle451: I don't like sports but my company had a Christmas party at a game and I was hooked.

@lovexamillion: My dad took me and my brother to a game inaugural season, then bought season tickets.  We easily became a hockey family.

@TyutinsTicklers: 1997 when Bettman said we were getting an NHL team.

@torsui: Roommate.  She was at work for final game last season, had me listen to the game and text her updates.

I mean, come on.  These stories are awesome.  You hear nothing about the disappointment.  You hear everything about the passion, commitment, and loyalty of these fans, to this team.  And now, we are starting to see success come to this franchise.

The Blue Jackets are now playing in their 13th season.  So in comparison to the rest of the league, they are still a young franchise.  The above teams either took many years to win the cup, or haven't won one at all.  The possibility certainly exists that the Jackets could win a cup in under 24 years.  That would be more successful than the above teams.  Yes, there has been misery for sure.  But, this team is clearly on the rise.  The team is better.  The front office is more stable.  The pieces are in place for long term stability and success.  But at the core of all of this, are the loyal fans that stuck it out through the hard years.  This is all for you.  Enjoy everything that is about to unfold. Your passion is what brings the building to life and energy to the team.  You are at the center of what makes this sport the best sport in the world.   Keep the fire burning Columbus!!

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