Commentary: For many reasons, this group was special
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the regular column of Rob Mixer, writer for BlueJackets.com. You can follow Rob on Twitter (@RobMixer) and follow his work on the CBJ Today blog.
It was the first day of March and I was posted up at one of our Buffalo Wild Wings viewing parties - most likely making short work of some pickle chips - when a friend texted me to let me know these were the "same old Jackets."
Not only did that phrase make my blood boil, I was flabbergasted in reading it and couldn't figure out why my friend would say this. Had he watched the game, a 4-3 overtime loss at the United Center in Chicago when the Blue Jackets' sixth defenseman arrived in an airport cab halfway through the first period? Did he not understand the collective resolve that this club had shown despite a number of one-goal losses?
At the time, none of this mattered and I was a little ticked off. I simply replied: "You're wrong. Just wait."
Over the next few weeks, the image of that text message replayed in my head but it no longer upset me. It made me think and ponder why my friend felt that way about a team that was obviously different than those which came before it. As someone who was born and raised in this wonderful city, I was confident that I was right but I was also *really* hoping that I would eventually be right.
And I wasn't naive enough to gloss over the obvious (a 5-12-2 record and last place in the Western Conference at the time), of course, but I really wanted to figure out if said friend was the only person who had those feelings - and if he wasn't, then why?
|Sergei Bobrovsky was one of the big factors in the Jackets' turnaround.|
I got my answer on Sunday afternoon after the dust had settled on an exciting-yet-disappointing whirlwind night at Nationwide Arena. Weirdly enough, it didn't come as the result of any deep thinking session or while in the shower (which is where all good ideas are born)...it came while I was grocery shopping.
One of my random meanderings around the local grocery store included a nice man approaching me (I was wearing a Blue Jackets pullover), wanting to chat about the season.
He was wearing a Blue Jackets hat and beaming ear to ear about the season finale, and before we parted ways, he said very enthusiastically: "Those guys had me believing, man. That was fun."
My friend, like the man in the pasta aisle and so many others, wanted a reason to hope -- a reason to believe in the Blue Jackets. They gave him that. They gave this fanbase and this city that.
The best part about experiences like we had this season is watching what they do to people. For example, my father, who travels frequently for business: he's usually the one texting me or emailing me for updates in between meetings or dinners, and doesn't have time to talk much about what's going on with the Jackets.
But over the past few months, he was calling me as soon as he got off an airplane or whenever he got a free minute just to see what the score of the game was.
It's the little moments like that but there are others, like watching thousands of Blue Jackets fans stick around to catch the end of Minnesota-Colorado on the video board after last weekend's finale. A standing-room only crowd serenading Sergei Bobrovsky with chants of "MVP" as he gave an excited fan the jersey off his back, then skating a lap at center ice and applauding the fans who cheered him on all season long.
In every year there are memories and in every memory there are moments, and each represented an opportunity for the loyal, passionate, and deserving fans of this team to sit back and smile.
But the best part is knowing that these memories are just the beginning of a memorable ride.