Columbus Blue Jackets

Sun, 08 Mar 2009 07:41

History of Columbus Blue Jackets

Information about the NHL team Columbus Blue Jackets.

With the National Hockey League’s continuous expansion since it started with only four teams in 1917, this premier professional football league in Canada and the United States has continued to host games to a number of hockey teams from various places around the two countries.

How the Columbus Blue Jackets
One of the youngest hockey franchises is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Playing as one of the National Hockey League (NHL) Western Conference’s five teams in the Central Division, the Columbus Blue Jackets can be watched playing their home games at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Skating and gliding in their team’s official colors of red, white, and blue, the Columbus Blue Jackets is one of the National Hockey League’s newest additions to the league. It was named in reference to Ohio’s momentous participation during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. In the said war, Ohio residents participated in the Union Army to take part in the country’s history.

The nickname “Blue Jackets” is meant to celebrate "patriotism, pride, and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and city of Columbus." The state offered 23 infantry regiment volunteers at the explosion of the Civil War in response to then President Abraham Lincoln’s request that the state come up with 10 regiments for the said war. Aside from the volunteers, Ohio has also produced notable Civil War figures including Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Custer.

The team’s mascot is also another team element in honor of the said Ohio locales. Representing the team is Stinger, an oversized bee wearing a blue uniform similar to a Union soldier’s outfit. The bee symbolizes resourcefulness and hardwork.

Although Columbus has already had professional hockey history from as early as 1966, it was only on June 25, 1997 that it was awarded a National Hockey League franchise. The granting of a National Hockey League franchise to Columbus was announced along with the granting of a National Hockey League franchise to other cities, including Atlanta, Minnesota, and Nashville. Atlanta got the Thrashers, Minnesota got the Wild, and Nashville got the Predators.

It was also in 1997 that the team name was announced.

The men behind the team

The Columbus Blue Jackets is Ohio’s first National Hockey League franchise after 22 years. The Cleveland Barons took their final bow in 1978 and since then, Ohio hockey fans haven’t gotten a team of their own, until the Columbus Blue Jackets came into the scene.

The Columbus hockey franchise is owned by businessman John H. McConnell and managed by Doug MacLean, ex-coach of the Florida Panthers. From its birth in 1997, the team continued to stabilize its human resources for about three years. The Columbus Blue Jackets signed up American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch as an affiliate team in a minor league. Its first 11 drafts included Rostislav Klesla of Brampton Battalion. Dave King started the team’s would-be long list of head coaches. He is former coach of Team Canada and a former coach of the Calgary Flames. Rick Wamsley was named as the goaltending coach, and Newell Brown and Gerard Gallant were named as the assistant coaches.

On its first draft in Calgary, Alberta, the Columbus Blue Jackets had to fill in its slots for eight defensemen, three goaltenders, and thirteen forwards. They could use their last two picks for players of any position. The Columbus Blue Jackets picked goaltender Rick Tabaracci of the Colorado Avalanche, Dwayne Roloson, Lyle Odelein, Geoff Sanderson, Mathieu Schneider, Dallas Drake, and Turner Stevenson, to name a few. However, Dwayne Roloson chose to join the Worcester IceCats of the American Hockey League, while Mathieu Schneider went for the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Drake went to the St. Louis Blues.

The Columbus Blue Jackets' debut

Hockey fans first witnessed the Columbus Blue Jackets’ goals in their National Hockey League debut on October 7, 2000, with Bruce Gardiner scoring the first in team history. They battled against the Chicago Blackhawks on their first match, losing the game by 5-3. Less than a week after this loss, the Columbus Blue Jackets won against the Calgary Flames, though they struggled a lot in the game. The Columbus Blue Jackets concluded their first season, landing at the bottom of all the other teams in the Central Division with a record of 28-39-9-6 and 71 points.

The ups and downs of the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets had to endure a significant loss in the hockey community in their second season with the National Hockey League’s first fan fatality in its 85 years of history. A thirteen year old fan named Brittanie Cecil was smacked by a ricocheted puck in a Columbus Blue Jackets’ game against the Calgary Flames at the Nationwide Arena. The kid died after two days. The following year, protective nets were installed in all arenas as a safety measure to avoid any similar accidents. To add up to the year’s bleakness for the Columbus Blue Jackets, that hockey season turned out to be a gloomier year for the faranchise, as the season ended with the team a record of 22-47-8-5 and 57 points, remarkably worse than the previous year.

In the following year’s draft, the team picked highly-publicized Rick Nash, the then 18-year old London Knights star prospect. Getting a poor start and finding themselves in second to the last place among all the Western Conference teams halfway through the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired Dave King and Doug MacLean, the team’s president and general manager, took over. However, the team still ended up behind the rest of its division with a record of 28-43-8-3 for 67 points. Halfway through the 2003-04 hockey season, however, Doug MacLean gave way for assistant coach Gerrad Galant as bench boss.

In 2005, Adam Foote, the Colorado Avalanche’s defenseman, agreed to join the team in a three-year deal. Instead of finally pulling it off and making it to the playoffs for the first time, the team’s strongest players -- Rick Nash, Rostislav Klesla and Gilbert Brule – got injuries, and so the team was fatally “crippled”. The team set a record of 9–25– q1 in its 35 games.

Hockey superstar Sergei Fedorov was welcomed from the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, in exchange for Tyler Wright, Francois Beauchemin, and later on, Todd Marchant. Despite failing to make it to the playoffs one more time, the team managed to make it to the third spot in the Central Division, bested only by the Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators. The team pulled off a record of 35 wins and 74 losses. The Columbus Blue Jackets were also able to set the best overtime record in the National Hockey League, 14-4. The Columbus Blue Jackets still haven’t made it to the playoffs. To date, this position has been the team’s best since it started playing in the National Hockey League. The Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ most prominent players to date are Rick Nash, Ray Whitney, Fredrik Modin, David Vyborny, and Sergei Fedorov. However, owing to the team’s relatively young age, the Columbus Blue Jackets hasn’t had a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Ken Hitchcock was named as the team’s head coach, while Scott Howson started as the general manager in 2007.