(This post is sponsored by Samsung)
For hockey fans in general, and Jackets fans in particular, the world can sometimes be a lonely place, particularly when you're confronted by a teeming wall of scarlet and grey as far as the eye can see every Friday and Saturday. (And Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday, and...)
Don't get me wrong - I was raised in Columbus, and I love it when the Buckeyes win, and I'm proud of THE Ohio State University and all the good it does in the community. But the fact that it's nearly impossible to hear hockey discussion on the radio without buying an XM receiver, even on the team's "flagship station", is daunting. The fact that people will discuss the last Buckeye football or basketball game in my office until they're ready to pass out, but only a bare handful have anything to say about the Jackets, is frustrating. The fact that people still make the "...hoc-key?" joke sometimes when I mention I'm a fan is irritating. And I know that I'm not alone.
So, what can you do?
You go out to the internet, that's what.
The glory of the internet is that you can find anything there....but you can especially find hockey fans there. For those following the team locally or from abroad, it's a fantastic resource that puts you in touch with other Blue Jackets fans, and fans of the sport in general.
So, where to go?
- Facebook - Yes, I know. Believe me, when people first started talking to me about how awesome Facebook was, I wasn't terribly keen on the idea, particularly since it seems to mostly exist as an engine for millions of people to spend hours clicking on their pretend cows. But, with a little bit of legwork, it's a surprisingly good way to network with both fans and the team. Did the you know that the Blue Jackets have their own facebook page? Did you know they occasionally break news there? Did you know they ask for fan feedback on games, the arena experience, and the team? Did you know they've occasionally posted giveaways and prizes there? Facebook also serves as a great way to network with fans, so that when you say "Hey, did you catch that goal by Jake last night?" you're almost always going to get a response.
- Twitter - Another service that runs the gauntlet from skeptic to essential depending on who you talk to, the concept of using 140 characters to put out micro-updates is surprisingly useful to hockey fans. Need to know the lineup? Following Tom Reed is probably a good idea. Want to know what fans are thinking just this moment? Try searching on the #CBJ tag. Heck, sometimes you even find random gems just looking around at what's being tweeted locally. Looking for the latest news from the club? It turns out they're on twitter, too. The micro-blog service is also a fascinating way to connect with players - for all the jokes about Mike Commodore's tweeting about his horse or being separated from his clothes in Las Vegas this summer, it was a neat experience to have him ask a question about buying a new computer, being able to answer it, and getting a nice response from him in return. Plus, given that he's been known to toss out a Major League quote now and then, maybe he'd be the right guy to bring Hockey Jobu into the locker room.
- The Blogs - Perhaps because the Jackets are a relatively unserved team in the local media (though the Dispatch does cover them as well as any print organization in an NHL city), the blogging community for the Jackets is vast and varied. You can go with the veterans, the analytical, the rigorous, or just check out the newer guys in town. Each has a distinct voice and viewpoint, and each has something to share in victory or defeat. (Sometimes, especially in defeat - I envy the photoshop skills of more than a few of my fellow bloggers!) Plus, don't forget that sometimes the blogs can collaborate on something truly special.
- Game Center Live - Yes, this is mostly a for the NHL at large, and may not affect fans in the Columbus area, but if you're somewhere you can't get the Jackets on TV regularly, GCL is fantastic - the ability to watch games on your PC while simultaneously tracking stats, looking at shots, hits, goals, or penalties in the ice tracking tool, and getting reports on face-offs and real time stats is incredible. I'm also a huge fan of being able to watch up to four games at once, but your level of hockey ADD may vary.
Of course, not to toot our own horn too much, but I think we've got a great little piece of the virtual world right here for you at The Cannon to check out, and it's easy for you to take part!
1. Sign Up: As I write this, we currently have 599 members. Admit it - it would be kinda neat to say you're #600, wouldn't it? It doesn't have to be your real name - plenty of us go by something a little more incognito and irreverent. Plus, once you've signed up, you can...
2. Comment!: Like an article? Hate an article? Think the article was mediocre, and certainly not up to our usual standards of peerless quality and deathless prose, but you did find one point particularly interesting? We can't know unless you tell us. The feedback we get from you is part of what makes writing these posts so fun, and The Cannon team always enjoys hearing from you, regardless of how you do it, but the nice thing about commenting on posts as opposed to email is that it can inspire others to join the discussion!
3. Share!: Did you catch something on XM radio, the coaches' show, or reported online that we've missed? Put it up for us! Did you have a take on the last game? Write about it! Want to get people talking about your favorite former Jacket or the best goal you've ever seen? Feel free to write a FanPost or FanShot - and if it's something really special, don't be surprised if we promote it to the front page to make sure that people see it!
4. Follow Us On Twitter: You can find us at @CBJCannon, where we'll not only post links to new content, but occasionally just tweet to see what you're thinking and touch base with everyone - and don't be surprised if you ask a question and get tweeted back!
5. Get In The Game (Threads): If all else fails, if you can't make it to the game and are dying to talk about it, don't forget that we'll post a game thread for every pre-season, regular season and (god willing) playoff game the Jackets play in! We'll try to keep things as up to date as possible, and we're always happy to talk with you guys as the game goes on. Just remember to keep things in good taste if fans from the opposing side show up looking for a bit of friendly discussion.