Iconic moments in sports history usually earn cool shorthand identifiers. Think “The Shot ‘Heard Round the World,” or “Philly Special,” or “The Drive.” Hockey has plenty of its own memorable plays, but the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t really have any pithy phrases to sum up a important franchise moment—except maybe for one.
On March 9, 2013, the Columbus Blue Jackets found themselves on a bit of a roll in a thoroughly weird season. A lockout had cut the season nearly in half, though the CBJ stumbled to a 5-12-4 to start the abbreviated campaign. Three straight wins helped to right the listing ship, however, and the team was ready to host a home-and-home with the hated—and more talented—Detroit Red Wings.
Halfway through the season, the Blue Jackets were “Searching for Relevance,” as our game preview put it. They were playing well, but faced a big bad Red Wings ready to knock them back in the dirt.
Except that night, it didn’t quite happen that way. Cam Atkinson opened the scoring at 13:46 of the first period, and Jack Johnson extended the lead early in the second with a power play goal. Just 1:23 later, Nick Foligno made it a 3-0 game. Nobody from either side would score after that, making the final period a vintage Sergei Bobrovsky shutout affair.
The game began to skew chippy, with holding, delay of game and stick penalties making up most of the infractions. Also Jordin Tootoo played, so, you know. As the third period wound down, a frustrated Justin Abdelkader (who took a diving penalty late in the second) got into it with CBJ forward Vinny Prospal. The 37-year-old Czech, playing in what would be his final season in the NHL, had only two fights to his name—and none in over a decade. Instead of using his fists to settle the dispute with Abdelkader, he used his finger:
A recent piece on this website covered one of the first times the fans brought a little collective piss and vinegar to the arena, but fans never really saw it from the Blue Jackets on the ice. Sometimes live microphones would pick up stray chirping, but the age-old “SCOREBOARD” taunt from an actual player took showmanship to another level.
Prospal earned a 10-minute misconduct penalty for the point, essentially kicking him out of the game. You can hear Mickey Redmond in the video arguing passionately on Prospal’s behalf.
This post touched on it earlier, but it must be emphasized how much Detroit throughly owned Columbus for much of the latter’s history. The Red Wings won 54 of the first 74 games in the series and unceremoniously swept the Blue Jackets in the CBJ’s first (and only, at the time) playoff appearance. Columbus arrived in the NHL near the apex of Detroit’s league-wide reign of terror, born in the same division as a Red Wings team that would win two Stanley Cups and didn’t miss the playoffs until 2016-17.
Those days are thankfully over. That season actually marked the beginning of the turnaround, including a seven-game win streak for the CBJ from 2016-18. Prospal’s point, though, stood by itself. From that night’s Cannon recap:
It’s about damn time we have a little swagger around here.
It was the point that launched a thousand memes, too. The r/bluejackets subreddit ran with it, Photoshopping Prospal over famous scenes throughout history and elsewhere.
The creators of those pictures have been lost to history, but if you know who created one of those three, please comment and I’ll credit. There’s also a picture of him pointing to the Blue Jackets newfound 12th-place position in the standings, which sort of paints a picture of how different things were back then.
The point gave Columbus a moment of national notoriety. In addition to the memes, the big blogs took notice, and head coach Todd Richards immediately disavowed the point after the game.
Columbus would win the next night against Detroit in a shootout. The plucky Blue Jackets narrowly missed the playoffs a month later, but a newly-installed general manager in Jarmo Kekäläinen and Sergei Bobrovsky’s first Vezina Trophy signaled good times ahead.
Prospal was already a fan favorite for his strong play, exuberant celebrations and colorful quotes, but The Point cemented him in Blue Jackets lore. Things didn’t end perfectly for him in Columbus, but his name came up so often after he left the team that “bringing Prospal back” became something of a fan in-joke (someone even asked The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline about signing Prospoal in a chat earlier this week). It was a three-second point six years ago, but it’s still an iconic moment for the Blue Jackets franchise.