Columbus USHL Franchise To Be Named Ohio Junior Blue Jackets
Team unveils logo, jersey, announces hockey operations staff, schedule and ticket information
The Columbus franchise of the United States Hockey League will be called the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets when they take the ice for the first time during the 2006-07 season, club director Jack Goebel announced Tuesday at Nationwide Arena. Goebel also introduced the hockey operations staff and the club released the 2006-07 schedule, ticket information and unveiled the team’s logo and home and road jerseys.
The hockey operations staff consists of General Manager Don Harkins, Head Coach John “Jack” Fritsche and Assistant Coach Josh Harrold. Harkins joins the club after spending the 2005-06 season as the director of player personnel for the Cleveland Barons of the North American Hockey League. He originally started with the Barons in 1995 as the head coach and spent five seasons in that role. He played collegiate hockey at Miami (Ohio) University.
Fritsche comes to the Junior Blue Jackets after serving as head coach of the NAJHL's Barons in 2005-06. Fritsche, the uncle of Blue Jackets forward Dan Fritsche and Ohio State University forward Tom Fritsche, began coaching in the Swiss Professional Hockey League after a 21-year playing career. He spent most of his career in Europe and played in renowned international tournaments, including the Spengler Cup (1988, 1989) and World Championships (1990). Harrold joins the staff after spending two seasons as the assistant coach for the Barons. He began coaching following a playing career at Miami (Ohio) University and six seasons in the American Hockey League and ECHL.
The team will play a 60-game schedule with 30 home dates, playing primarily on weekends. The Junior Blue Jackets will play their first game on Saturday, Oct. 7, against the Waterloo Black Hawks. Game time at Nationwide Arena is 7 p.m. Tickets for the upcoming 2006-07 season are general admission and will be priced at $12 for adults and $5 for students (college and high school – I.D. required). Season tickets for the 30-game home schedule will be $299. For ticket information, call 800/NHL-COLS or visit www.BlueJackets.com. The official web site of the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets, www.OhioJuniorBlueJackets.com will be unveiled later this summer.
The Junior Blue Jackets will compete in the USHL's East Division with Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Green Bay, Indiana and Waterloo. The West Divison is made up of Des Moines, Lincoln, Omaha, Sioux City, Sioux Falls and Tri-City.
The USHL, which is in its 27th year as the country’s premier development league, holds the highest classification of U.S. junior hockey with an emphasis on preparing players for the NCAA Division I college ranks and the NHL. Each year, the league sends over 100 players to Division I colleges on hockey scholarships and has 15 players selected in the NHL Entry Draft on average. There were nine players selected in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, including two first round picks, the No. 8 overall pick Kyle Okposo (Des Moines), who was selected by the New York Islanders and the No. 17 overall pick Trevor Lewis (Des Moines), who was selected by the Los Angeles Kings.
All players must be 20 years of age or under before the current season begins. The USHL averages more than one million in attendance each season with teams playing a 60-game regular season schedule. Among USHL alumni currently playing in the NHL are Blue Jackets defensemen Rostislav Klesla (Sioux City) and Duvie Westcott (Omaha). For more information on the USHL, visit www.ushl.com.