Inside Blue Jackets Fans & Their Enduring Passion

Imagine being a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets for a second.

Imagine your excitement when it was first announced that an NHL franchise was coming to Columbus. Imagine the wide array of possibilities that would be coming to the market. Think back to the day the puck first dropped at Nationwide Arena.

Early Optimism

The date was Oct 7, 2000. Ron Tugnutt took to the home crease for the first time in franchise history. Over 18,100 fans came out to watch. We had our first glimpse of how electric hockey could be in Columbus. Surely the future was looking bright.

As great as the possibilities looked and sounded, I’m not sure anybody saw what was coming next. Talk about the darkest of days that eventually led to rock bottom.

Who knew what the first 19 years of hockey at Nationwide Arena had in store? (Natalie Lutz/Flickr)

The Blue Jackets didn’t win 30 games in a season until after the lockout of 2003-04. They didn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs until 2009. The team hit rock bottom in the 2011-12 season, yet they still didn’t pick first in the following draft. There were even fans who protested the way things were going.

Teams certainly have their ups and downs. But the Blue Jackets hovered at the bottom and could never get the footing to rise up early on.

Why Did Fans Stick Around?

It makes you wonder how Blue Jackets’ fans put up with this for so long. The only constant was losing. Regular seasons were long and painful. Although they had their chances to fix things at the draft, they missed much more than they hit.

Even though all that was happening, fans still came out and watched this hockey team with an undying support. It takes a special kind of fan to stick it out through all the suffering the franchise has endured.

Even now when times are much better, there is still disappointment happening. We are about to enter the 19th season in Blue Jackets’ history. They just won their first ever playoff series. But after the excitement of this moment and the season came to an end, three of their best players decided that it was time to move on.

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Even though the 2018-19 Blue Jackets had the components in place to win the Cup, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene wanted to go elsewhere. The team will move on, but it still doesn’t take away from what many fans are feeling. It reinforced the pain that comes with being a diehard fan of this team.

Just how do they continue to cheer on this team? I took this question to social media and asked the fans themselves. If there was anything I learned about this fanbase, it’s that their passion knows no bounds. It is an honor to be a Blue Jackets’ fan despite everything that has happened. Let the fans themselves tell you their story and you’ll see what I mean.

Stories From Blue Jackets’ Fans

From Germany to Columbus

I remember being so upset when the measure failed for a publicly financed arena to get the then Hartford Whalers (current Carolina Hurricanes.) I have lived in Columbus since I was a small child in 1969. I liked watching hockey ever since the Miracle on Ice. Back then with no cable, the only team I knew about was the Islanders and their four-peat Stanley Cup run of the early 80’s. In 1986, I joined the Army and was stationed in Germany. It was there that I met my wife who is from Finland. After my time in the army was up, we moved to Finland where hockey was like a religion. It was there that I really fell in love with the game. We eventually moved back to the States in 1992 and settled in Columbus. After the vote failed and the McConnell family stepped up and got the Blue Jackets, I was thrilled. While I’ve never had the money to get season tickets, I tried to go to as many games as possible. My wife works for United Airlines so in 2010 we were fortunate enough to visit her friends in Stockholm and I attended the Jackets win over the Sharks.

Fast forward to now, she was outsourced in Columbus 4 years ago and we moved to Houston. I watch every game on YouTube TV and just a few weeks ago was fortunate enough to see the team get a win in Dallas. I have two sons who were born just prior to the Jackets inaugural season and both are diehard Jacket fans as well. -Lenny Jobin

Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are celebrated worldwide with fans in many parts. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

The Blue Jackets Are Like Family

So The Blue Jackets are coming near their 20-year mark and the reason for why I have stuck by them for so long is because the way the fans treat each other like friends and family. It is just such a welcoming environment but also just how much the players tell you how much they appreciate you and what you do for them makes you feel good. It’s gotten me back on my feet after my first idol Michael Jackson passed away on June 25,2009. A few years later I was diagnosed with tarsal coalition disorder in both of my feet. Also when I was getting bullied at school years ago it has always just been an escape for me personally and a place to create memories with your best friends and family. This is my 10th year as a Blue Jackets’ fan and I appreciate every single moment that I have spent with this team even though yes they’ve dragged me through every emotion humanly possible. I don’t regret a moment of it looking back at all the amazing memories I have meeting my favorite players throughout the years and being able to open to them and keeping a friendship with them has been everything for me. I am so grateful for the Blue Jackets and everything Jarmo (Kekalainen) has also done for me. Thank you! I’m staying with this team for the future because we truly are destined for something great. -Madigan O’Brien

A Lifetime Invested

I have been with this team through all the years and now that I’m older and more knowledgeable about the all-around sport, I’ve come to realize that I’ve invested so much of my time and money on this team and as of right now the expectations are at the highest they’ve ever been, because frankly I’ve never seen a more talented Blue Jacket team before. But we have some major issues coming especially with Bobrovsky and Panarin losing that elite talent is going to be a huge departure, but I will always believe in this team. To me this hockey team represents more than just a hockey team. They are like family. I have spent 18 of my 22 years supporting this team. Growing up watching them and seeing them bloom into what they are now, I will always cheer for the Blue Jackets no matter what comes to them. I am determined and that determination has me coming back every year. You will not find anyone who is more passionate about the Blue Jackets besides me and my brother. We watch every game and if there isn’t an opportunity, one of us will watch and the other will send updates of the game. No matter what happens to this team I will support them. -Adam Pineault

Vladislav Gavrikov Columbus Blue Jackets
Blue Jackets’ fans believe no matter who is on the team. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Picking Your Team Out of a Hat, Literally

I’ve been a bandwagon hockey fan for years.  At one point, I had a Trevor Linden jersey, followed by some Bruins and Flyers t-shirts and hats.  Every time, my support always went unrewarded.  My teams would go on season-ending losing streaks, or favourite players would be traded. 

Finally, at some point 10 years ago, I essentially pulled a team’s name out of a hat and became a Columbus Blue Jackets fan.  The franchise had a sweet logo and finally seemed to be heading in the right direction with some exciting players to follow.  Good times.

As any 5th Liner will tell you, it hasn’t been easy to follow this club.  Late night Western Conference games, management upheavals and disappointing drafts.  Eventually, it became a badge of honour to simply hang in there and support the Jackets, similar to being a Chicago Cubs fan.

Part of the fun, of course, is to follow along on social media while watching Jeff and Jody cover the games on TV.  Tweeting “LEO!” at just the right time never gets old.  The bucket list certainly includes a visit to NWA and hear that cannon in person! -Randy Walton

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In Conclusion

These are just a very small sample of stories of the passion of Blue Jackets’ fans. It takes a special kind of fan to stick by a team who hasn’t had much success overall. Times are definitely better these days and it seems the best is yet to come. But no matter what happens, you can bet on Columbus continuing to support the Blue Jackets til the very end. This is truly a family affair and it doesn’t get much better than that.