Columbus has got a pretty great zoo — complete with otters — some kick-ass locally-made ice cream, and of course, The Ohio State University. It'd be pretty impossible to overstate the importance of OSU to Columbus. At least 1 in 10 of the people I saw out in public were decked out in OSU gear. The Buckeyes stores are ubiquitous, massive, and carry everything from the official OSU candy (George, you'd love these; they have the perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter) to underwear to expensive jewelry and signed merchandise. The campus is huge and gorgeous, and as an institution inspires impressive loyalty from the populace.
Loyal locals are an owner's dream, but Columbus's struggles as a hockey market are well-documented. And really, who can blame the fans? One post-season appearance, in which they were swept, in 10 seasons leads to a lot of empty seats. I was on hyper-alert for any hint of a hockey fan. I zeroed in on the guy in the Blue Jackets coat when we grabbed breakfast at Panera one morning. Another in a Jackets t-shirt at at the OSU arena. A hockey equipment store in the northern 'burb where I was staying. And...that's about it.
But we hit the (one and only) hockey bar in Columbus on Saturday night, and lo and behold, shortly after the 8pm puck drop the place filled up. R Bar was standing room only by second intermission and, while there were more than a few OSU-clad fans, the vast majority were in Jackets jerseys. They wore hats and scarves and screamed at the TV. Drinks were decent, our server told me to help myself when I asked if I could have a Blue Jackets pint glass, and there was Leafs graffiti in the bathroom. Just like home... ;)
Game day was the Monday to start a holiday week in the US, so I guess it's not surprising that the announced attendance, just over 11,000, was an exaggeration. Still, it boggles me that you can pick up row six seats for $25 on game day.
|Not bad for the "cheap" seats.|
They sell local microbrew in Nationwide, from Columbus Brewing Company and Great Lakes Brewing, among others. It's not cheap, but arena beer never is, and it was worth the extra dollar or two to avoid the Bud. And like I said, no queue :)
They have their own strange rituals at Jackets games. The crowd tried to get the occasional "Let's go Jackets!" going, but after the first one to start the game, they never got any momentum. Later, a few loud patrons went with "Let's go Clitsome!" and, when that died off, "Get some Clitsome!" which lasted even less time. Sorry, wi ;) After Columbus's third goal, everyone in the place stood up and started chanting "CHILI!" in what was the loudest goal celebration of the night (Apparently a ticket stub gets you free chili at Wendy's if the Jackets score three or more in any game.) No one sings along with Locksley after a goal. Maybe they're still getting used to a new goal song? Or maybe they're just recovering from the cannon. Because the Jackets have a CANNON! And while I heard it too often for my liking on Monday, that's pretty cool :)
(Thanks for inviting me to join the team, wi. I'm very long-winded, so I hope you aren't regretting this already ;) I even have an anti-Canucks post all ready to go in my head for...next week or something.)