Last-Place Blue Jackets Still Producing Sellout Crowds

18,807. Let that number sink in for a minute.

That was the announced crowd at Nationwide Arena Saturday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the San Jose Sharks. Not only was the game a sellout. It was a standing room only sellout. That means almost 700 fans paid to be there without a seat.

If this doesn’t prove Columbus continues to be a hockey town, I’m not sure what will. But then when you consider the season they’ve had so far, impressive doesn’t begin to describe the passion of these fans.

It’s not like the Blue Jackets’ opponent was the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings, the Toronto Maple Leafs or even the Chicago Blackhawks. Those fan bases help achieve sellouts when they’re in Columbus. This was against the lowly San Jose Sharks, a team facing a similar dilemma that the Blue Jackets are.

Columbus Blue Jackets Bench Celebrate
Columbus Blue Jackets are enjoying standing-room only sellouts even in last place. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

And yet, 18,807 fans were at the game. While there were some pockets of Sharks’ fans in the building, most of this crowd was there supporting the Blue Jackets, the team at the very bottom of the NHL standings. If fans come out to support this team now, wait until they’re good.

Slow Starting Game

The game itself didn’t start out well for the Blue Jackets. Coming off a 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks where they allowed five answered goals after a 3-0 lead, they proceed to spot the Sharks a 2-0 lead.

The Blue Jackets managed just two shots on goal in the first period. They looked sleepy. They couldn’t get any pucks on net. It almost became a new franchise low for shots in a period on home ice. On four separate occasions, they finished a period with just one shot on goal. Despite the sellout, the night seemed to be heading for yet another loss.

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The Blue Jackets did come out better in the second period but they were still down 2-0. That’s when Mathieu Olivier knew he needed to do the dirty work. He went over to Jonah Gadjovich and offered a fight. Gadjovich accepted. That moment not only woke the Blue Jackets up, it woke the crowd up too. Olivier met the need in the moment. It ultimately swung the game in the Blue Jackets’ favor.

On a power play shortly after the fight, Johnny Gaudreau scored to make it 2-1. Then just 1:12 later, captain Boone Jenner tied the game. The building was now alive and well. Game on.

Fans Got Everything They Wanted

The Sharks scored early in the third period to make it 3-2. But then Patrik Laine scored to make it 3-3. Everything that the fans hoped would happen had now happened.

They got a fight. They got a Gaudreau goal. They got a Jenner goal when everyone in unison yelled “Boooooone.” Then they got a Laine goal. Laine and Gaudreau are tied for the team lead in goals with 13 each. They got cannon blasts. All that was left was to win the game.


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Just over nine minutes after Laine’s goal, Gus Nyquist did his part to do just that. He beat Sharks’ goalie Kaapo Kahkonen to give the Blue Jackets a 4-3 lead. Then Sean Kuraly hit the bullseye to provide the final score of 5-3.

Besides the Blue Jackets finding a way to win after a poor first period, the story of the night was the fans. They could have easily said I’m done watching this team this season. With all the injuries piled up and no chance for a playoff spot, there are several reasons fans could have elected to not go to the games.

But that’s not how this fanbase operates. That’s one of the big reasons why Nationwide Arena remains a special place to play. This fanbase has the team’s back no matter the circumstances. They’re getting standing-room only sellouts while in dead last place. Other teams that have been in a similar situation aren’t seeing those results.

Team Appreciation of the Fans

The crowd was not lost on the players postgame. Nyquist immediately acknowledged the crowd as being a big factor in the game and result.

Coach Brad Larsen took time to appreciate the fans given the rough season they’ve had. It also took on extra meaning with it being First Responder’s Night.

“First, it’s a great night because it’s First Responder’s Night. What can you say about all the men and women that are involved in that, and the sacrifice and the hours especially the last three years how hard it’s been with COVID” Larsen said. “You hear the stories as they’re coming and people that are lost in the line of duty and that’s hard to hear.”

“I’ve said this so many (times), our fans are incredible. It’s been a rough year. But they continue to show up and they continue to support and they continue to chant CBJ when it’s not going so well. This is a special city that way. They’ve always been tremendous and got behind this group. Thick or thin, they really have. They’re always showing up. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it as players and staff. It’s just great to see.”

Management Must Reward Their Fans Soon

Blue Jackets’ fans are starving for success. While most other franchises have enjoyed some level of success in the form of making a conference championship in recent memory, the Blue Jackets have advanced to the second round just once. But they continue to show up in the hopes that one day, they’ll be able to see a winner on the ice.

The fans have done their part. Now it’s time for everyone on the team to do their part. This means management must take steps in order to have the right mix of players in the locker room who represent what being a Blue Jacket truly means.

Jarmo Kekalainen Columbus Blue Jackets
Jarmo Kekäläinen and staff must reward their fan’s loyalty. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Columbus and the Blue Jackets’ experience is a special one for anyone that has been to Nationwide Arena to see a game. The reason for that? The fans. It doesn’t matter if it’s first place or 32nd place in the standings, the commitment from the fanbase is the same.

The true potential of the Blue Jackets hasn’t been unlocked yet. Just imagine what the city and the Arena District would look like if they had a consistent winner. It would be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

The time is now for management to reward their fanbase for their undying loyalty to the Blue Jackets. It’s time to give them what they’ve longed deserved. A winner.

18,807. Never forget that number. The next time anyone questions if Columbus is a hockey town, just say 18,807 and standing-room only. That will get the point across once and for all.

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