On Wednesday we premiered our Jackets 20, a series which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Columbus Blue Jackets by profiling 20 of the most important players from the first two decades. This is not a ranking, nor is it strictly based on talent. Rather, these posts will reflect what these players have meant to each of us as fans, and the impact they had on the course of the franchise and on the community at large. PD wrote about former face of the franchise, Rick Nash and today I talk about one of my favorite players, Jody Shelley:
The early highlight
I remember what it was like going to Blue Jackets games as a young middle schooler. About the age of 12 years old, I went to my first game. The team was most definitely in its leaner years, and any kind of playoff streak or talk was a ways off. Nationwide Arena always glistened and the atmosphere was always rocking though. And few players or moments could be better in those days then No. 45 dropping the gloves and bringing fight night to Columbus, a daily occasion.
Shelley was not afraid of anyone and his face might be all that you needed to look at in those days to pick up on that fact. A common theme was a smile and a missing tooth. Maybe blood and cuts along the way.
It was thrill for me being able to talk with him in 2018 and we got into everything from fighting Bob Probert to living in Columbus and how much he loves the city, and why he decided to put down roots. It’s no wonder how he transitioned so gracefully from being a bad boy on the ice to being a great color analyst in between the benches starting in 2014.
First of all my wife is from here and I put down some roots right away. I fell in love with Columbus right away. I sensed the pride that Columbus had for me and I’ve always been proud of Columbus so I think that was right off the bat. My parents live in Northern Alberta which is a tough town sometimes, especially April, May, and June when here the weather is beautiful. I love all the sports in this city. I love that they have a top-ranked college team here, I don’t know if anyone in Canada really knows that we share the same city and I kind of like that. It’s such a sports city. I love that it’s got a blue-collar attitude. I’m always fascinated with people that started their own business and done well or have tried it and there’s a lot of that here. I really identify well with the people here, so for me it was great as an athlete and as a former athlete, it might be even better.
Shelley spent 13 seasons in the NHL, seven of those with the Blue Jackets before being traded to the Sharks. He would also spend time with the Rangers and Flyers before hanging up the skates after the 2012-13 season.
Tale of the tape
Games played: 627
Penalty Infraction Minutes: 1538
Power Play Goal: 1
Power Play Points: 3
Game-Winning Goals: 2
Career Playoff Games: 9
Shelley finished tied-for-124th all time with 1538 penalty minutes, alongside Jim Cummins, and he's second in Blue Jackets history (1025) behind Jared Boll.
Tore my hamstring in this fight..But it was a good battle against a great guy! https://t.co/LVu9U8zEKh— Jody Shelley (@shelleyhawk45) March 5, 2018
Shelley was the epitome of the early Blue Jackets. Things might not always be pretty, but there was going to be some blood out there on the ice, in some shape or form.
Just a snippet from my upcoming interview with @shelleyhawk45 RE fighting and even taking a broken nose if it means sticking up for your teammates. Just one of the reasons he was a fan-fav. #CBJ yeah I know it's Philly but this picture I found does justice. pic.twitter.com/Mc6G5PBXwv— Will Chase (@willgchase) August 25, 2018
The Blue Jackets’ recent acquisition of Max Domi also sprung to mind the penalty box moment with Max’s father, Tie.
Then there was the gatorade war with Sean Avery.
I think it’s pretty easy to paint enforcers in the NHL with one broad stroke and even say outright that the role should be altogether eliminated.
The following passage was from our interview two years ago where Shelley discussed CTE and the consequences of fighting in the game. There were also some other lines that particularly stood out to me, including the love for the game Shelley had and the determination to do whatever he needed to do to make it to the NHL:
So it’s an eternal struggle. The hardest part is not knowing if you’re going to fight. I remember going to St. Louis and they had a tough couple tough guys, and game day, okay I have to learn the system. I’ve got to be ready as a left winger, to be responsible in the defensive zone. Do everything the coach asks, but at the same time, I’ve got to be ready for Reed Low or Kyle McLaren or whoever’s on the other side ready to fight me. One guy’s a lefty, is he going to come after me right away or is the other guy going to come. Are we going to fight first shift. Are we going to fight later in the game, like all these things that you don’t know so there was a lot that went into it mentally. But then again when you drop the gloves, and you square off, and you size each other up and you grab — I remember a lot of the times thinking ‘boy that wasn’t as bad as I played it out in my head.’
Even if I had a bloody nose I thought ‘well ya know, it’s not that bad.’
And especially this line:
To play in the NHL, I would have done everything exactly the same, as beat up, same as many times as I was, because I loved it and I loved being a part of it.
There was a certain pride and love for the sport that Shelley has. You saw that in his game while out on the ice and you see it today when he’s on TV for FOX Sports Ohio. Starting as a ‘team ambassador’ and broadcast associate before transitioning into a full-time color analyst, Shelley has only continued to grow into his new role.
It’s great seeing a former popular face on the ice stick around and add to the Blue Jackets alumnus around Columbus.