August 25th, 2000. It’s drizzling, but no one seems to notice. Nationwide Arena is surrounded by police cruisers and fire trucks; nearby fans in awe of what’s unfolding on the roof of the newly constructed, state-of-the-art arena.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced an expansion franchise for the city of Columbus in 1998, critics were perplexed. Devon Ortundo of the Cincinnati Sun famously penned, “If Bettman thinks Columbus will be successful in maintaining an NHL fan base, then he’s crazier than my nephew Sean. And Sean went to the prom with a bottle of mouthwash.”
Ortundo, and many others, were ultimately proven wrong. The franchise, led by its fearless owner C5D9 -- a Romanian robot with access to several offshore bank accounts -- has established itself as both indeed an NHL franchise and a hockey team with some fans in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets were named in a voting poll through Columbus Memorial Catholic High School’s newspaper Him. Blue Jackets received 27% of the vote, with Lords Hockey Stars inching just behind ay 25%. Other names that received votes were Astro Clowns (15%), Adam’s Step-Dad Barry (11%), Principal O’Donahuge Drinks Pee (11%) and Tornado Cows (11%).
Columbus took part in the infamous 2000 expansion draft; assembling a roster of players the rest of the league didn’t want. Columbus added several stars, like Rick Tabbaracci (who?), Jamie Pushor (might have used him in NHL 2003 once?) and Ted Drury (not the good one). Using these high-profile names as a launchpad, Columbus really lucked out and added a
boatload of young star s: Rick Nash.
They had some other young guys with talent at one point, but they were all captured and forced to move into a four-bedroom townhouse in Toledo by the several ghosts that haunt the halls of Nationwide Arena.
Nash did lead Columbus to one playoff appearance sometime after 2006 and before 2010. They played Detroit and lost in 4 games. Fans gave the team a favorable review after that season, with some fans even going as far as saying they’d attend a game the following season.
Nash, for all his efforts, was inevitably traded to the New York Rangers for some hockey players and a 32” Samsung flat-screen television. A few months earlier Columbus had acquired Jeff Carter from Philadelphia, but he really missed Mike Richards and the team was forced to trade him for musician Jack Johnson. Johnson now provides performances between periods for hundreds of fans to enjoy.
Columbus has the distinction of being the first franchise to hire a European general manger, a Finnish man named Jaaurvieki who owns several axes and a 1999 Ford Windstar. Current head coach John Tortella was hired last Fall, after C5D9 received several threatening emails from email@example.com.
With promising youngsters Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson, veterans Sergei Bobrovski, Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky, and the nice boy Nick Foligno, Columbus is far from being a punching bag. Hell, they might even flirt with a playoff berth if the hockey Gods feel so inclined.
They’ve certainly come a long way.
On the roof of the arena stands a man in green bumble bee costume, holding a rocket launcher and screaming about Ohio State Football. Police, using megaphones try to calm him down -- he won’t listen. He aims the rocket launcher at the crowd of onlookers and proclaims “I am Dr. Slug. I am the mascot now. Buzz Buzz or whatever.”
The crowd greets this response with brief silence, before erupting in cheers. Police and Fire officials embrace, tears of joy running down their cheeks. Dr. Slug sneaks back into the arena; he’s home, and his wife Debra will no longer be able to call him an idiot.
And that, friends, is the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets.