For general "Why the heck not" purposes, I recently asked Jackets fans on Twitter if they'd mind answering a few questions about how they became hockey fans, and how deeply they follow the NHL - in part to see what kind of a job the Jackets have done at growing interest in the game around Ohio. Take a look to see how successful they've been, and some of the people you might meet at a game...
Of the ten responses, 7 came from men, three from women.
Here's the questions they were asked, and what we learned:
1) How long have you been a hockey fan?
Answers on this ranged from lifelong to just two years ago, but worked out to an average of ~14 years. Balancing the lifelong hockey nuts, at least three became hockey fans either when Columbus got an NHL team or within a year of their arrival.
2) If you were a hockey fan before the Jackets arrived, who was "your team?"
A few respondents have only ever rooted for the Jackets, but there was an interesting mix - we had two votes for Colorado, a couple who considered the Chill or the Cincinnati Cyclones to be where it was at, and a scattering of other NHL franchises. Interestingly, no votes for Detroit or Pittsburgh, but we did have votes for several Canadian teams, including one fan who rooted for the Oilers as a kid because his uncle used to wear an Edmonton jersey now and then.
3) What was your first experience with seeing live hockey? Can you describe it?
Nearly every response was an NHL game, but we had a few Chill games in there as well, and even a Dayton Bombers game! The speed and the clarity of the game compared to TV (especially before HDTV) was also a big theme.
4) If #3 was not an NHL game, what was the first NHL game you attended in person?
For most, this was Jackets game, but we had one attendee who went to a Pens game in Pittsburgh, a fan who went to a Pens / Caps game in DC, and one interesting story from the Jackets' inaugural season: "I saw a Panthers/Jackets exhibition game in Cincinnati, in September of 2000. I paid like $20 to sit behind the Jackets' penalty box at the Cincinnati Gardens. Pretty much the coolest thing ever."
5) How many Jackets games do you attend in person in a season?
Answers ranged from a full season ticket to "Sadly, none", but the average generally worked out to 15 games a year. In her own category is one respondent who doesn't have tickets..but works at the arena for 35+ games a season!
6) How many non-Jackets hockey games do you attend in person?
This was a little surprising - just over half of the respondents attend 5-10 games, mostly NCAA hockey at OSU and Miami of Ohio, but also ECHL, AHL, and other NHL teams being represented.
7) How many non-Jackets hockey games do you watch on TV or the internet?
There were two camps of answers here: Those who watch as much as possible regardless of the season, and those who watched a game or two a week in the regular season, but were glued to the tube during the playoffs.
8) Do you own Blue Jackets season tickets or partial season tickets? If so, what size package?
We got the full spread on this question - 1 full season ticket holder, 3 10 gamers, 2 6 game packages, and three buying individual tickets or sharing a family member's tickets.
9) Did you purchase NHL Center Ice or Game Center Live?
3 subscribers, three seriously considering Game Center Live, two nos, and two "I use...less legal....methods." Tsk. I'm sending you scorn. Over the INTERNET.
10) If the Jackets left Columbus for some reason, would you continue to have a team?
For this one, I'm going to let you hear their answers directly:
Of course. Hockey is hockey, but having a team this close is a real joy for me. I probably wouldn't return to being a Senators fan as they are so far away, but I am sure I would adopt another team.
This is a tough one. I was still an Avs fan until probably the 2006-2007 season. In all the years Columbus had a team I'd never been able to make it out to the game when the Avs were in town. I'd been to several other games, just not the Avs. When I finally got to watch an Avs game, they announced the lineups and I realized that I didn't know a single player on the team anymore. Long gone were the days of Sakic, Forsberg, Roy, Fleury, Foote and Lemieux.
At that point it had dawned on me that I'd switched from following Avs hockey and keeping an eye on the Jackets to watching the Jackets and keeping a loose eye on the Avs. I decided to make the switch to being a full-time CBJ fan. If the Jackets ever left town, I would probably go back to following the Avs with about 10% of the enthusiasm I'd given the Jackets. In addition to those teams, I really like what the Bruins and Lightning are doing. They are both fun to watch so I would consider switching to one of them. I'd still keep an eye on the CBJ players but I don't know that I could cheer for their team.
Well, I do still have my local ECHL team and an NCAA team up the road, so I'd still have hockey to watch. But I'm sure I'd cling to somebody in the NHL, whether it was one of my standby favorites, or if the team relocated, their new home.
Nope. If the Jackets left, I would seriously consider moving away from Columbus unless they immediately brought in at least an AHL team. Hockey is too important in my life to accept living in a city that does not have it. (Take that, arena deal opponents.)
I would resume being a full-time Sharks fan, or maybe follow the Sabres closer. I would never follow the team that became of the Jackets.
Yes (the Bruins)
I would probably but not as passionately. Access to games is an important part of being a fan for me.
Yes, wherever the Jackets moved would be my new team.
I would always follow the Blue Jackets where ever they were (please never move!!)
My team is the Blue Jackets, no matter where they are or what they are called. I still follow former Jackets, too, as I can.
11) What made you become a hockey fan?
Again, in their own words:
Canadian born.. Is there a choice? heh, I loved being like my dad, and he is a die hard hockey fan.
I played street hockey with some neighbors growing up, I didn't watch any hockey at the time. I just really liked the game. When Colorado got a team, I took an interest in the NHL. When I actually watched my first NHL game, I was hooked. Having my new team win the Stanley Cup that year didn't hurt, I don't think.
It was fast paced and aggressive. Hard to get bored watching it. It held my interest almost completely.
It's unpredictable. I love it.
In short, my wife. In long, I regularly attended OSU football and basketball games as a kid with my Dad, and I have always followed the Cleveland Indians, so I enjoyed a lot of sports, but had no exposure to hockey outside of occasional unrealistic video games. When I learned that my wife was a big hockey fan when we started dating, I took her to a preseason game for her birthday in 2005. Hockey was an excellent activity we both could enjoy because I already loved sports and she already loved hockey. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with hockey myself, and hockey became a daily obsession for me around the time that Ken Hitchcock was named the new CBJ head coach.
My family got cable on summer, in time for me to catch replays of playoff hockey on Sportschannel.
That summer, it was announced the Cincinnati Cyclones were starting, and i've been hooked ever since.
My father and growing up with it in my house (and Cam Neely).
Experiencing the game live!
I always loved the non-stop action and pure athleticism.
First the Blue Jackets. Then I learned to play ice hockey. Now I'm addicted to both.
Working several games at which there isn't much to do except watch hockey, I started trying to follow the games, just to be less bored. Then, fans started asking me questions and I felt like I needed to have an answer. So, I started memorizing the program. Then, I went to Hockey Fest, just to see what it was like and get the experience. I pretty much was impressed by the team, as they were all so nice and well spoken. By the end of November, 2009, I was an official fan!
12) Do you or have you ever played hockey yourself?
Quite a few rec hockey, backyard, and inline players, including a former NCAA club team player, people learning, interested parties, and one person wondering if 26 is too late to learn - speaking as a 30 year old who is looking at getting skating lessons this Winter, I say go for it! (Oh, and there's one true lunatic....learning to play goalie!)
Part of the Jackets' mission since arriving in Columbus has been to grow interest in the game of hockey in Ohio, and it seems like they've been incredibly successful in that regard, if this slice of the fandom is any indication.
I hope you enjoyed a look into the fanbase, and if people enjoyed these, maybe we'll try making them a more regular feature. Have a great weekend!