The year that Blue Jackets fans were waiting for was finally here.
After enduring a brutal 2014-15 season full of never-ending injuries and heartache, fans had much to cheer about during the team’s incredible 15-1-1 stretch to end the season. Although the Blue Jackets missed out on the playoffs, there was a buzz in the air around Columbus. We were finally seeing glimpses of what this hockey team could do.
The offseason did nothing to slow the momentum down. Stanley Cup champion Brandon Saad came to town. A new swagger came along with it. Hope for a good season was at an all-time high. For once, fans could get excited for what was about to unfold.
That is, until the season actually began.
All it took was one game, the first game, to serve as a cruel reminder of what it’s like to be a Blue Jackets fan. Years of bad and ugly memories were brought back to the forefront.
Up 2-1 late in the third period on the New York Rangers, the Blue Jackets were feeling good. The fans were too, yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. Newly acquired Saad put Columbus ahead on the scoreboard. This was truly going to be the start of something special.
In under two minutes, the hopes of a great start to the season faded into utter darkness.
Not only did the Rangers tie the game, they took the lead. The energy that was present just minutes before was gone as though it was never there. Nationwide Arena was stunned silent.
The Blue Jackets went on to lose that first game 4-2. Sure, it hurt. But it was just one game. Surely the team would recover. They had an opportunity to put that game behind them the next night, against the same team.
Before you could blink, it was 3-0 Rangers.
A Rapid Descent
Now panic started to set in. Were we going to see a repeat of last season’s October and November? Maybe, just maybe the Blue Jackets could find a way to come back from down three goals. Nope. Two games in, two brutal losses.
Ok, so it was the New York Rangers. They’re one of the better teams in the NHL. Columbus has work to do. No problem. Upcoming schedule lightens up some. The Blue Jackets play at Buffalo, and then host Ottawa and Toronto. They should win these three games no sweat. Except they played even worse here than they did against the Rangers.
Buffalo dominated them. Ottawa did the same. Toronto dealt the last blow. At 0-5, the same old Columbus Blue Jackets were on full display for everyone to see. The absolute worst case scenario was now a grim reality. With the Blackhawks and Islanders next, there was no end in sight for the losing.
Not only did 0-7 come, so did a new coach. Add that to the list of horrible Blue Jackets experiences in their franchise history.
At this point, many fans are accustomed to this. It doesn’t even phase them anymore. They want to get excited for this team. They want to believe that something good is going to happen. Instead, something bad usually happens. It’s one step forward and two steps back.
It’s for this reason that the fans are ultimately the biggest losers in all this. Year after year, it’s the same thing. Whether it’s enduring a long losing streak, or missing on a top draft pick, or seeing your players go to other teams to win Stanley Cups, Blue Jackets fans have just about seen it all. How can you not feel for them? It’s been 15 years of heartache and pain. And now they have a 4-12-0 team this season to add to the misery. Blue Jackets fans deserve so much better.
They deserve better from the players. For some reason this season, the team can’t play a complete game. They find different and creative ways to lose winnable games. They are digging a hole that is quickly becoming too deep. They are easy to play against now. Teams are taking full advantage of this. The fans deserve better.
They deserve better from management. Management said that they would address their defense in the offseason. Although they tried, nothing happened. They said that they weren’t worried about their current roster. They now find themselves in dead last in the NHL. The fans deserve better.
Yet, through all of this turmoil, these fans are as loyal as ever. This cannot be questioned.
The Passion Of The Blue Jacket Fan
Want proof? The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series in their franchise history. Yet, they still draw over 14,000 fans a night on average. To add to that, their TV ratings on Fox Sports Ohio is up. These fans care about this hockey team, no matter what happens. You’d think the crowds would dip under 10,000 a night with such misery. That’s not the case.
The fans are the lifeblood of this team. They take extreme pride in being a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets. They give the electricity and energy of Nationwide Arena. They enjoy the good moments when they happen, and feel the pain when bad moments happen. Passion is at the center of a Blue Jackets fan.
It’s for that reason, their loyalty and undying passion of the team, that they deserve so much better than what they’ve gotten. The good news is that the season is still young despite their poor record and 30th place standing. They still can turn this season around, if they put in the effort. It has to start Friday in Pittsburgh.
Take heart Blue Jackets fans. Your time will eventually come. All these years of agony will be well worth the reward of winning when it matters most. Keep with it. The players need you. Management needs you. The team needs you. You are one of the reasons why Nationwide Arena can be a tough building to play in.
You truly deserve better than this. Hopefully the team delivers on their promise to you.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.