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Catching up with SpecmenceCBJ, YouTube’s foremost Blue Jackets archivist

Meet the hero who uploads all your favorite videos

An illustration showing Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins celebrating in front of a SpecmenceCBJ’s YouTube channel page. Elvis Merzlikins photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images | The Cannon illustration

If you’ve ever whiled away an afternoon watching Columbus Blue Jackets videos on YouTube, you’ve almost certainly encountered the work of SpecmenceCBJ. His YouTube channel goes beyond the normal goals, hits and saves (though those are there, too) to show content like the final minutes of games, prospect highlights, interviews and CBJ-centric clips from media outlets that can be difficult for American viewers to catch on TV. I became obsessed with his channel during last season’s playoffs. Not only could I watch highlights that included more than just two seconds of action before the goal, but I could see what places like TSN and Sportsnet were saying about the Blue Jackets’ historic upset as it happened. I wanted to learn more about the channel—which boasts 1,851 videos to date—and the person behind it, so I caught up with SpecmenceCBJ on Reddit.

(Note: This interview has been lightly edited for punctuation and clarity.)

The Cannon: Who are you?

SpecmenceCBJ: I’m a 24-year-old Pharm. D. student living in Vancouver, Canada. I’m a huge Blue Jackets fan and the person behind the SpecmenceCBJ YouTube channel.

The Cannon: What’s your workflow? How do you decide makes the cut?

SpecmenceCBJ: I like to make highlights of the start of the game (which I title “Puck Drop”), then any goals and notable highlights like saves, fights, blocks and controversies, and the final seconds of the game if the Jackets happen to win (which is happening a lot recently!). If I’m watching the game live, then I’ll make notes of these plays when they happen. But because I live on the West Coast, I often am unable to watch the entire game so I rely on scrolling through game threads on the Blue Jackets subreddit. Jeff Svoboda’s Twitter account is a great place for CBJ Twitter play-by-play as well!

After that, I open the game file on a program called Avidemux. It is an incredibly simple yet effective program that I highly recommend to anyone who would like to start clipping. Before I discovered it, I was using OBS [Open Broadcaster Software] or VLC to generate clips which took me almost an hour per game. Nowadays, I’m able to get all my highlights down between 15-30 minutes depending on how many clips I need to upload.

If I’m unable to get the recording of the entire game, then I do end up screen recording directly using OBS or VLC. It takes longer but the quality is still great. I usually end up using these programs for international tournaments or prospect highlights from junior and men’s leagues from around the world.

For editing compilations, like for end-of season goal compilations, prospect point compilations (which are probably my favourite videos, by the way), and highlights from international tournaments, I use Adobe Premiere. This is a very popular video editing software and for good reason. It takes a while to get the hang of but it is very powerful and is great for rendering long videos at more than 30 fps, which is not the case for many other video editing programs. Also, it’s great for making thumbnails!

The Cannon: How did you get started doing this?

SpecmenceCBJ: I’m from Vancouver and so I grew up a Canucks fan. There was a similar (now terminated) YouTube channel for Canucks highlights called “GoCanucksGo.” I remember visiting his channel daily for years, whether to watch highlights of the game from the night before or looking back on playoff memories from when I was younger or even from before I was born. What’s cool is I actually ended up becoming friends with the channel’s creator in real life (u/yosoo on Reddit) through starting the channel. Amazing guy and clipper (but not the best fantasy hockey player).

But in addition to his channel, I noticed that there were ones for other teams. Examples include Dafoomie (Bruins) and Awood40 (Red Wings). I remember thinking how awesome it would be if there was one for the Jackets as well. Eventually I realized that this is something I could start myself and the channel was born.

The Cannon: How did you become a Blue Jackets fan?

SpecmenceCBJ: After the Canucks lost in the Finals in 2011 and then got humiliated the following year in the second worst embarrassment of a President’s Trophy-winning team in NHL history, I needed a break from that fandom and associated heartbreak. I decided to pick up a second team for a year. That off-season, the Blue Jackets traded Rick Nash to the Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and the pick that became Kerby Rychel. I was so invested to see how this team would perform and rebuild after trading away their franchise player.

That 2012-13 lockout-shortened year was incredible. Though my hometown team Canucks made the playoffs again, I was so invested in watching this blue-collar, hard-working, chip-on-their-shoulder team make a run at the playoffs when everyone had counted them out. Though they finished just short of making it in, by the end of the year I had fallen in love with the team and it’s identity and I haven’t looked back since.

The Cannon: You picked a great time to have a CBJ channel during last year’s playoffs. What was that like for you?

SpecmenceCBJ: It was unreal. The channel was quite small at the start of the year and it grew a little because of Jarmo’s deals at the deadline, but the views, watch time, and subscriber count exploded after that run. On top of that, the national attention associated with the run resulted in so much more content I could upload. All of a sudden, NHL Network, TSN, Sportsnet, and NBC were talking about no other team more than the Jackets. It was really special to see our normally neglected underdog team finally get some recognition, and I am so happy I was able to capture it as those videos would otherwise be left unarchived.

The best part though, was getting comments and messages from so many different CBJ fans from around the world. For many people, especially those outside of North America, it is tough for to catch the games as they happen. I especially remember receiving a message of gratitude from a member of the US Armed Forces stationed overseas who would wake up every morning to the highlights I was posting. Interactions like those make me feel very thankful that I am able to touch so many people through something so fun and simple.

The Cannon: What’s been your favorite video? What’s been the “biggest” one in terms of highest numbers/engagement?

SpecmenceCBJ: My favourite video right now is the one stickied to the front of my channel that compiles all the goals from the Jackets first playoff series win from last spring. I watch the video in its entirety at least once a week. On a similar note, my favourite highlight would be Texier’s 1-0 goal in Game 4. After following this wunderkind the past couple years and being so excited for him to join the Jackets, seeing him shine on the big stage gave me the feeling of a proud parent. In terms of numbers, there are two types of videos that generate the most views. The first is anything controversial. Highlights like Brad Marchand punching Scott Harrington in the back of the head or stomping on Cam Atkinson’s stick, Steven Stamkos sucker-punching Nick Foligno, Andrew Shaw’s hit on Adam McQuaid and Nikita Kucherov’s hit on Markus Nutivaara all received a ton of attention and plenty of comments from angry CBJ fans. The video of the Marchand stomping incident received attention in particular after it was shared on big sites like Deadspin.

The other type of video that is popular is anything involving Elvis Merzlikins. I have grown to appreciate how much Latvia loves and supports their overseas athletes. It started with my video of his highlights at the 2018 World Championships, but ever since he took over the net the Latvian fanbase has taken over the channel. I mean look at this chart [of channel views by geography, shown below] and keep in mind that the state of California has 20x the population of Latvia. They are the most passionate fanbase I have ever seen.

A bar graph showing SpecmenceCBJ’s view counts by geography, showing the United States, Russia, Canada, Latvia and Finland in that order. SpecmenceCBJ

The Cannon: Who are your favorite Blue Jackets of all-time?

SpecmenceCBJ: Number one in my heart will always be Brandon Dubinsky. In my opinion, he embodies the CBJ identity more than anyone. He came here on a mission after being traded from New York wanting to be a leading part of the change. I think of his battles against Crosby and his game-tying goal in Game 4 against the Penguins in 2014. It’s a shame that he’s had to go out this way. I’d love to see him make a comeback but if he ends up hanging them up, I’d love to see him get a role in the Blue Jackets organization.

The Cannon: What was your favorite moment of this season?

SpecmenceCBJ: From this season it has to be Elvis’ first win. After his struggles at the year and everyone writing off the Jackets’ season after Korpisalo go down, seeing him finally get that first one was special. It looks like that was all he needed to gain his confidence back as he’s been on a tear since. Plus it helps that the victory came against our old friend Bob.

How are you feeling about this season? Do you think the Jackets will make the playoffs?

SpecmenceCBJ: While last year was incredible in its own right, this year reminds me of why I began cheering for this team in the first place. We have a team of players that not only want to be here, but are playing as a team and giving it their all every night. The result so far has been very special. I think they do make the playoffs, but even if they don’t, this has been one of my favourite Jackets seasons since I became a fan.

The Cannon: Do you have a plan for the future with your channel?

SpecmenceCBJ: I hope I’m able to continue uploading highlights for as long as possible. During the offseason, I plan on making time to upload highlights from past seasons as well. I know that one day life will take over and I won’t have the time I do now, but I hope that by the time that comes that the channel will have enough archived memories for CBJ fans to reminisce over for a very long time.

You can follow SpecmenceCBJ’s work at his YouTube channel.