Why I'm A Fan Of The Columbus Blue Jackets
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June 21, 2011 is a date I'd rather soon forget, but unfortunately, will never be able to.
That was the day my beloved Atlanta Thrashers - my favorite team on the planet since fourth grade - were officially sold to True North Sports and jetted off to Winnipeg.
One city was given a second chance at a hockey team, and I was forced into choosing a new team.
But where to start? All I had known was the Thrashers as a hockey fan - their first season was my Kindergarten year in 1998-99 and they were officially sold a little over a month after I graduated from high school. Do I follow the team to Winnipeg, despite them sharing no characteristics of their former selves?
Nah. This is an exciting time. How many people have an actual good excuse to reinvent their fandom? The NHL world was my oyster.
But, I had a huge task ahead of me - there were 29 teams to choose from. Who do I go with?
I considered the Canadiens - I love the city of Montreal. But, living in Atlanta, it'd be near impossible to ever get to a game. So pass.
I attended college in Bowling Green, Kentucky, about an hour north of Nashville. So maybe the Predators then? Eh...that seemed too simple. Too easy. The obvious solution. No thanks.
One of my favorite bands reps the San Jose Sharks often. I could get down with some teal.
Speaking of teal, the Mighty Ducks films are childhood classics. I could totally get down with the quack.
Nope, nope, I know. It'll be the Buffalo Sabres. I already had a hat and a shirt, I enjoyed a brief stint there once.
Maybe I'll stick in the then Southeast Division. Carolina? Florida? Tampa?
I kid you not - each and every one of these teams I gave consideration for as to who will be my new NHL team. But, after it was all said and done, I narrowed my options down to two squads:
- The Columbus Blue Jackets
- The Edmonton Oilers
I'm not going to lie to you - I very damn near picked Edmonton. I can't explain why, other than I just wanted to. They had the history - the Cups, the Gretzky - I also had an Oilers shirt already from my uncle (my t-shirt collection is pretty widespread). It just seemed like a solid pick for me.
But, I could never pull the trigger. I could never go all-in. I could never look myself in the mirror and say "I am an Edmonton Oilers fan." I don't know why, I just couldn't.
If I'm being honest, it's the damn logo. That was, while not the only factor, a pretty big one. It kept drawing to me. It's so great. So unique. I couldn't not have that logo be a piece of my life.
I also have my girlfriend to thank. She's from Cincinnati (although she's spent her entire life living on the Kentucky side), so I figured that I already had a crack at a hometown team, I'd give her hometown team a shot. (And I'm better for it, as I've gotten her into hockey through watching the Blue Jackets.)
I had a team again, but I knew nothing about them. I jokingly compared the Jackets to the Thrashers with friends who asked why I picked CBJ - "Eh, they're kind of the same - folks often forget they exist and they're bad."
I dove in as head-first as I knew how - I followed everyone I could on twitter. I seeked out every blog I could find (including this fine community, which I still can't believe I'm writing for - thanks Mike). I read every preview and recap and story just so I could become familiar with the names and the faces.
And then, before I knew it, I was in. I was happy when "we" scored or won. I was sad when "we" surrendered a goal or lost. I was purposefully watching games (via, I must admit, any means necessary), I continued to read as much as I could - hell, I even checked the official roster a couple of times a week just so I could learn who was on the bloody team.
Oh, by the way, that first season I became apart of "we," was the lockout shortened year, when we came, what, three points shy of missing the postseason?
I've seen a lot of good recent times. And, while yes I'm still new to being a Blue Jackets fan, I carry with me my Thrashers pain (on- and off-ice pains) with me.
I'd also be lying if I said a small part of me wasn't actually thankful that the Thrashers left. Someone asked me once if I would be as big a Blue Jackets fan that I am if I still had the Thrashers. And truthfully, I don't think I would. I honestly tapered off my purposeful Thrasher watching towards the end - not because I was tired of them, but, you know, there'll be 82 games next year to watch. (Plus, y'all, they were really really bad.)
Until there wasn't. Until there was 82 games in a new city, under a new moniker, and I was left out in the cold.
But now, here we are. One hell of a season under our belts, and a great future to look forward too. Thank you for letting me into the community. Thank you for letting me become "we." And thank you for reading through my incoherent ramblings.