I remember sitting in my apartment in college, eating a five dollar pizza and clinging to a couch that probably cost even less.
That part of the story isn’t exactly unique, but what my friends and I were watching is something we won’t soon forget.
Let’s preface this story: most of us were huge hockey fans, but there were a few who either dabbled or were only interested because of the situation. It was 2010 and the Olympic Winter Games were being held in Vancouver, and it was a tournament that provided some of our most profound hockey memories in a span of two weeks. Those Olympics provided the kind of hockey exposure that can captivate someone who had previously expressed a passing interest in the game; I happened to see that in spades from my vantage point.
The campus bars on Court St. in Athens were filled with red, white and blue gear and “USA!” chants – which, during my college days, weren’t thrown around so haphazardly. People were planning their days around the Olympic hockey schedule. It was awesome.
It was also the only time I can remember our group of friends – which included Browns fans, Steelers fans, Blue Jackets fans, Penguins fans and a lonely Bengals fan – unified over something related to sport.Here’s the best news: we get to do it all over again in a few months.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - At Nathan Horton's introductory press conference earlier this month, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson offered a familiar refrain.
When prospect defenseman Ryan Murray suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during a WHL game in November, Davidson said the organization's first and only goal was to make sure the necessary surgery would be done promptly and properly, in order to ensure the player's full recovery before taking the ice again.
That was the case in early July when the Blue Jackets signed Horton to a seven-year contract: the 28-year-old power forward was injured in overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks and did not return, and wanted to wait until signing with a new club before deciding on surgery.
After consultation with Blue Jackets team doctors and management, they opted to have Dr. Jon Warner at the Boston Shoulder Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital conduct the procedure.
Surgery was deemed a success on Wednesday morning, and Horton's projected recovery timetable (four to six months) remains unchanged. Horton had said he's hoping for something closer to four months, but is committed to any necessary time frame so that he doesn't have to worry about further injury.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Anton Forsberg has been a popular topic of conversation among Blue Jackets fans after two consecutive years of impressing at development camp. While they'll have to wait a bit longer to see him play in North America, the next step of his career is no less exciting for him and the organization.
Forsberg, who will turn 21 in the fall, is slated to make the jump from Sweden's Allsvenskan league (second division) to the Swedish Elite League this year. He signed his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets earlier in the offseason and will suit up for Modo - one of the most successful hockey organizations in Europe and a club that's hosted some of the top Swedish-born players in the history of the sport - in the 2013-14 season.
Whether he becomes the starting goaltender for Modo is purely up to him, but Forsberg is clearly advancing in his development. The Blue Jackets had high hopes for Forsberg, their seventh-round pick (No. 188 overall) in 2011, and he appears to be on the verge of becoming a legitimate No. 1 netminder.
"It’s an opportunity for him to backstop a team at one of the top levels in the world," Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark said. "Anton is a structurally fantastic goaltender who continues to evolve the competitive and athletic sides of his game. He’s a tremendous worker; if I could pick a goalie that I know works as hard as Sergei Bobrovsky, it’s Anton Forsberg. That’s always nice to have in your back pocket with an organization."
COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not difficult to recognize Blue Jackets goalie prospect Joonas Korpisalo, and that's a good thing.
He was the 6-foot-2, lanky goaltender wearing extremely-visible, red-and-yellow goalie equipment indicative of his Finnish club (Jokerit), the organization previously headed up by Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
Korpisalo’s goalie mask is highlighted by the “jester” of Jokerit, but there’s nothing funny about the significant improvements he’s made in his game.
Rewinding to one year ago, the Blue Jackets drafted two goaltenders at the 2012 NHL Draft – first it was Oscar Dansk at No. 31 overall and Korpisalo followed in the third round – and both recently took part in development camp for a second consecutive year. In selecting both goalies, the Blue Jackets were able to draft the two highest-rated goalies on their list, giving the organization a strong pipeline in net.
Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark is the man who puts in the time to make sure these kids fulfill their NHL potential, and he sees development camp as his best annual opportunity to go “hands on” with the goalie prospects. One of his objectives is to give the players specific instruction to take back to their respective teams, and last year, Korpisalo (like all the goalie prospects) had some homework when he returned to Finland.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The third day of July is usually circled on the calendar in Columbus with Red, White and Boom, but it was also a pretty important day for Ryan Murray.
A few weeks prior, both Murray and Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson agreed that the young defenseman's injured shoulder was back to 100 percent after nearly six months of rehabiliation - a period that was at times lonely, frustrating and nothing short of a bummer to watch his friends and teammates playing hockey.
Despite all the negatives of missing the majority of the regular season (and potentially a chance at his NHL debut), Murray took it all in stride and committed to getting the shoulder back to normal, and doing so the right way. However long it took post-surgery to rebuild the strength and range of motion in the shoulder, Murray was all-in.
The final hurdle came Wednesday at his final doctor visit prior to development camp, which begins this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. Murray passed all the check-ups and was cleared for full contact, meaning he can return to playing hockey at the pace and intensity he's become accustomed to.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The phrase "you can never have enough depth" is often said by NHL general managers. The Blue Jackets are doing their part and making sure they have plenty of depth in time for the upcoming season.
Jack Skille is the latest to join the mix, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the Blue Jackets today to give the team another solid option for Springfield (AHL) and also a player who has proven his ability to be a dependable guy at the NHL level. Skille has spent the past three seasons with the Florida Panthers, playing 40 of 48 games in 2012-13 and putting up 12 points (three goals, nine assists).
Skille, a native of Madison, Wis., was an impact player for his hometown Badgers in two years with the program after graduating from the United States National Development Team Program (USNTDP) in 2005. He was selected in the first round (seventh overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2005 NHL Draft, and after his collegiate career was over in 2007, he joined the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate to begin his professional hockey life.
He was dealt to the Panthers in 2011 as part of a deal that brought Michael Frolik to Chicago, and seemed to gain some NHL footing in south Florida. Skille has been a regular point producer in the AHL, but hasn't been able to find the same scoring touch in the NHL.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said that players will decide their own fate with the Blue Jackets, and Skille will be no different when training camp begins in September. He'll be given a chance to gain a spot in Columbus, and if that doesn't work out, he will be a go-to guy for Brad Larsen in Springfield and be a top call-up option for the Blue Jackets.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – At the top of Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s offseason shopping list was a scoring winger, and today, he checked it off.
Just days after a free-agent visit with the Blue Jackets that included a tour of the facilities and the city of Columbus, Horton decided to make this his long-term home. Horton and the Blue Jackets agreed to terms on a seven-year contract this afternoon, solidifying the top-line right wing spot for the foreseeable future.
Horton comes to Columbus after three successful seasons with the Boston Bruins, highlighted by a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. Kekalainen and team president of hockey operations John Davidson were not shy in stating their intentions of adding offense to a Blue Jackets club that struggled at times to score goals last season, and it’s safe to say Horton was high on their list of targets.
And why not? He’s a perfect fit for the Blue Jackets.
When the Blue Jackets acquired Marian Gaborik in a multi-player blockbuster deal at the trade deadline, Kekalainen said he was focused on upgrading the team’s skill up front, in particular on the wings. With depth at center ice (Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Johansen, Mark Letestu and Derek MacKenzie all down the middle), the Blue Jackets made scoring goals a focal point of their offseason additions.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - There aren't many dull moments when it comes to the so-called "frenzy" of the NHL's free agency period. That much, we can all agree on.
And it's not just the day itself (July 5 this year, after a condensed NHL season pushed everything back a few days) that causes so much excitement and anticipation. It's also the days leading up to the opening of free agency, with at least one major trade finalized before the floodgates open. We saw that yesterday with the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars doing business on a multi-player deal which sent Tyler Seguin to the Stars, and 30-goal guy Loui Eriksson to Beantown.
Fireworks are commonplace this time of year and the NHL rarely disappoints in supplying its own.
We're a few hours from the official opening of unrestricted free agency, but the past two days have served a purpose for several teams in the market for top players. The NHL's new collective bargaining agreement allows for a 48-hour interview period for free agents, in which they can visit their suitors and further explore opportunities they may have on the open market.
The Blue Jackets aren't the only club in the hunt for scoring, but there's a decent-to-good market in free agency. Ideally, they would like to add a top-six forward with offensive punch and size to play on either wing, giving them a pretty solid 1-2 tandem on the wing with Marian Gaborik.