Hey, I get it. It’s not like everybody has been making a grocery store run to stock up on nachos, wings, adult beverages, and party hats with team logos. No, it is most decidedly not Super Bowl weekend.
But it is Hockey Weekend Across America, and today is officially Hockey Day Across America. For a puck head like me, that’s a big deal. I grew up very close to the original six city of Boston, and on a day like this I’d be out with my buddies shoveling snow off a pond so we could get in a little skate, always pretending to be Orr, or Esposito, or Cheevers. Some of those same buddies and I were even able to keep the hockey dream going, playing some high school hockey in the Merrimack Valley area of Massachusetts. It wasn’t the big time, even by the standards of high school hockey in New England, but you could have fooled us back then.
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Now, as I look out at about four inches of the fluffy white stuff on the ground here in Independence, Ohio, I can picture kids out there sweeping off the snow and getting in a little street hockey or pond hockey on a beautiful midwest winter afternoon. As the immortal Bob Johnson would say, “It’s a great day for hockey.”
We’re here in Independence because the FoxSports Ohio studio is just down the road, and that’s our venue for Blue Jackets Live pre- and post-game shows when the team is on the road. Today we get a bit of a respite before broadcasting our third shows in four nights tomorrow night, when the team is in Anaheim to take on the Ducks.
In the meantime, it’s going to be all hockey all day for your intrepid reporter. The NHL has scheduled a triple-header to showcase the sport across the United States on this weekend’s final day, and, for me, it is pure hockey heaven in high definition. It’s a perfect day off.
I want to say congratulations again to good friend and colleague George Matthews, who celebrated his 1000th pre-season, regular-season, and playoff game in the Blue Jackets radio booth last night in Phoenix. As all Columbus fans know, George is the original radio voice of the team. They also know his energy is infectious, and no one goes into the booth more prepared and excited to bring the game to his listening audience.
As a former NHL radio play-by-play broadcaster myself, I always thought one of the the most important objectives was to convey how compelling the NHL is and to share that excitement with avid and casual fans alike. George does that each and every night for Blue Jackets followers, and he’s been instrumental in the impressive growth of hockey in the central Ohio region. A doff of the hockey hat to you, my friend.
To say the least, the road has not been kind to the Columbus Blue Jackets since the scintillating opening night shootout win at Nashville. After the 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes, the team has now dropped five straight away from Nationwide Arena, being outscored 19-7 in the process. Since the beginning of last season, Columbus is stuck at 13 road wins, fewest in the NHL. Being consistently hard to play against goes hand-in-hand with road success for NHL teams. The Blue Jackets are still searching for that elusive brand of consistency, especially outside of Columbus. In too many of their road losses, the compete level hasn’t been what it needs to be to sustain road success. In a season as short as this one, time will run out quickly if this team doesn’t find a way to bring a collective commitment to the road.
Tomorrow night in Anaheim would be a good place to start.