Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The Columbus Blue Jackets played their first regular season game against the Chicago Black Hawks, losing 5-3, 7 October 2000. This loss would foreshadow the struggles of the team to this point in their history. During the short span they have existed in the National Hockey League (NHL), the team has yet to make the playoffs.
The team’s name was selected for the purpose of “celebrating patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, city of Columbus” as quoted from the team’s web site on NHL.com.
The first goal in franchise history was scored by Bruce Gardiner. Other notable names to don the Blue Jacket jersey include: Sergei Fedorov; Rick Nash; Ray Whitney; Fredrik Modin; and David Vyborny. The unenviable task of playing goaltender has fallen upon the shoulders of such players as: Ron Tugnutt; Marc Denis; Fredrik Norrena; and Pascal Leclaire. In the 2003-04 season, Rick Nash finished tied for the league lead in goals scored with Jerome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers to take home the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Although the team has not been in the league a long time they have already played a part in changing the way the game is played or, at least, viewed at the NHL level. During the 2001-02 season, thirteen year old Brittanie Cecil was struck in the head by an errant shot off the stick of Epsen Knutsen and later died. As a result of this tragedy, nylon mesh nets have been made mandatory behind the goal nets in all NHL stadiums. Brittanie was the first fan to die at an NHL game in the league’s 85 year history.
Despite the lack of success shown by the club, the future should be bright behind the leadership of such up-and-coming young stars such as Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev and Gilbert Brule and the goaltending skills of the versatile tandem of Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena. They have a dedicated fan base who appreciate the game, which always inspires a team. There really is nowhere to go but up.