Throughout the year, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the National Hockey League (NHL), discovering the best and worst each team has to offer in a variety of subjects. We will also feature a drink based off the franchise. Today, we march into Ohio to find out what the Columbus Blue Jackets are all about:
Establishment Story: The Blue Jackets joined the NHL as an expansion team in 2000. Previously, the only NHL team to play in Ohio was the Cleveland Barons, which operated from 1976 to 1978. The team’s name comes from Columbus’ involvement in the American Civil War. The other name considered for the franchise, through a name the team contest held by Wendy’s restaurants in the area, was Justice.
Stanley Cups: The Blue Jackets have only won one playoff series ever, but it was notable. In the first round of the 2019 post-season, the Blue Jackets achieved the unthinkable, not only defeating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, but sweeping the series. It’s the only time in NHL history a President’s Trophy winner has been swept in the opening round and is known in team folklore as ‘The Sweep’.
Celebrity Fan: TV personality Erin Andrews, best known for her work as a National Football League sideline reporter, has been spotted at some Columbus games, rocking a Blue Jackets jersey. Andrews has even designed a line of Blue Jackets clothing for women, called WEAR. The line includes hoodies, pajama sets and button-up shirts. Andrews is married to former NHL player Jarret Stoll.
Super Fan: Described as the Blue Jackets biggest fan, Dancing Kevin (aka Kevin Schroeder) was known for his shirtless dance moves, with various slogans of support painted across his stomach and back. He would also, at times, pour beers all over his face to ignite the Columbus crowd. In 2016, Schroeder managed to lose 160 pounds over nine months, which the team he supports to this day celebrated.
Mascot: Stinger is a yellowjacket bug, so when mixed with Columbus blue, he has turned bright green with menacing red eyes. Stinger wears jersey number 00, representing the year 2000, when the Blue Jackets joined the NHL. Naturally, Stinger’s dislikes include bug zappers, raid and fly swatters. Columbus also had a secondary mascot, a cannon named Boomer, but that only lasted for half of the 2010-11 season.
Tradition: The Blue Jackets in-game experience is best known for the replica cannon inside Nationwide Arena, which was added for the 2007-08 season. The cannon is fired after each Columbus goal and also when the team takes the ice before the game and if they win the contest. To go along with the cannon blast, AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) is played.
Appearances in Media: The only thing I can find for this category is a 2017 Finnish TV show called Amanda ja pelimiehet (Amanda and Gamers, according to Google translate), which saw host Amanda Harkimo interview various hockey players. The Columbus episode featured Finnish players Joonas Korpisalo, Markus Hannikainen and Markus Nutivaara, along with general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.
Events/Scandals: On March 16, 2002, a deflected puck struck 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil in the head, as she attended a Blue Jackets home game. Although Cecil attended a first aid station under her own strength, she died 48 hours later, as doctors failed to discover a torn vertebral artery. Tragically, the tickets to the game were an early 14th birthday present. Following Cecil’s death, the NHL placed netting at each end of all arenas.
Rivalry: The Blue Jackets two chief rivals are the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, thanks to their geographical closeness to the Ohio capital city. Columbus’ hatred of all things Pittsburgh was intensified in the NHL, when the two teams were placed in the Metropolitan Division during the 2013-14 league realignment. The Blue Jackets and Penguins have met twice in the playoffs, with Pittsburgh winning both series.
Tragedy: In 2021, at a Fourth of July party hosted by Blue Jackets goalie coach Manny Legace, a firework mishap killed Columbus goalie Matiss Kivlenieks. It was later revealed by fellow Blue Jackets goaltender and Latvian Elvis Merzļikins that Kivlenieks’ death occurred as he was protecting others at the party, including Merzlikins pregnant wife. Kivlenieks had been in the Columbus system since being signed in 2017.
Player Nicknames: Current Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner was given the nickname Bam Bam in his rookie season by team trainer Mike Vogt, thanks to his tenacity while forechecking. The moniker is a reference to the young Flintstones character, who has surprising strength. Jenner has spent his entire career with the Blue Jackets, since being drafted 37th overall in 2011.
Line: One popular unit in Blue Jackets history was the PB&J Line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi ‘Bread Man’ Panarin and Josh Anderson. The trio was formed during the 2017-18 season and were dominant while together. Another top line for Columbus was the threesome of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek, who were combined during the 2010-11 campaign.
Captain: After Rick Nash was traded away in July 2012, the Blue Jackets spent a number of years without a captain, finally putting Nick Foligno in the role in May 2015. Foligno had once been offered to Columbus, in a hopeful deal for Nash, but the transaction crumbled when Nash declined to waive his no-move clause to go to the Ottawa Senators. Foligno served as captain for six seasons, until he too was dealt from the team in April 2021.
Enforcer: Jody Shelley played parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jackets and holds the team’s single-season penalty minute record with 249 in the 2002-03 campaign. Shelley earned the nickname ‘Hawk’, as teammates felt he oversaw all the action and looked after them when needed. After retiring from hockey in 2013, Shelley became a Blue Jackets team ambassador, before joining the Blue Jackets TV broadcast team in 2014.
Family Values: Brothers Kris and Ryan Russell were both members of the Blue Jackets organization in 2011, but Kris was traded to the St. Louis Blues, before Ryan made his NHL debut with the club. Another family connection for the franchise is father and son Mike and Cole Sillinger both playing for Columbus. Mike suited up for two seasons with the Blue Jackets, while Cole was drafted by the club 12th overall in 2021.
Returning Players: Jakub Voracek was drafted by the Blue Jackets 7th overall in 2007. In June 2011, Voracek was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he would spend the next 10 seasons. In July 2021, Voracek was traded back to Columbus. Sadly, Voracek’s second stint with the Blue Jackets saw the end of his career at only 33 years old, due to post-concussion issues from an injury suffered in November 2022.
Short Stint: On a couple occasions, the Blue Jackets tried to bring in a star player to the organization, with the experiment not lasting long and that player ending up with the Los Angeles Kings. First, in 2011, Jeff Carter was traded to Columbus, but lasted only 39 games before he was on the move again. In 2013, Marian Gaborik was acquired, playing 34 games over two seasons. Both players would win Stanley Cups with the Kings.
Undrafted: The Blue Jackets most prolific undrafted signees have achieved their success in other locales, with Nick Holden and Jonathan Marchessault each only playing a few games with Columbus. The future may be bright with two 2022 signings in goalie Jet Greaves and defenseman Nick Blankenburg. Greaves had a strong NHL debut in April 2023, while Blankenburg has 17 points in his first 43 NHL contests.
Trade: The Blue Jackets greatest success came with their only playoff series victory in 2018. Two players who led the charge for that club were Sergei Bobrovsky and Nick Foligno, both acquired in trades in the 2012 off-season. Bobrovsky was dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers for three draft picks, while Foligno came over from the Ottawa Senators, in exchange for defenseman Marc Methot.
Signing: In a surprise move, Johnny Gaudreau chose to sign with the Blue Jackets during the 2022 free agency period, rather than remain with the Calgary Flames or move closer to his home of New Jersey, as had been speculated by media reports. Gaudreau’s seven-year, $68.25 million pact with Columbus was less than Calgary offered and comparable to offers from Eastern Conference squads.
Draft Pick: Despite many years of futility, the Blue Jackets have only selected first overall once, taking Rick Nash in 2002. The team has more draft blunders than successes, especially with top 10 picks. These include Nikolai Zherdev (4th overall in 2003), Alexandre Picard (8th overall in 2004), Gilbert Brule (6th overall in 2005), Nikita Filatov (6th overall in 2008), and Ryan Murray (2nd overall in 2012).
Holdouts: Two budding stars for the Blue Jackets went through contract disputes with the organization, following breakout seasons in contract years. Nikolay Zherdev and Ryan Johansen both endured drawn out negotiations, with each player finally putting pen to paper and joining the team as training camp, in 2006 and 2014 respectively, were already in progress.
Buyouts: In the 2016 off-season, the Blue Jackets bought out the contracts of defenseman Fedor Tyutin and enforcer Jared Boll. The releases cost Columbus a total of $6.96 million, with $5.83 million going to Tyutin and $1.13 million going to Boll. Both players were long-time members of the franchise. Today, Tyutin and Boll rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in all-time games played for the Blue Jackets.
Unique Game: The Blue Jackets have twice travelled to Europe for games. First, they played the 2010 NHL Premiere versus the San Jose Sharks in Stockholm, Sweden, while also facing off against the Malmo Redhawks in exhibition action in Malmo, Sweden. Next, they journeyed to Tampere, Finland for a pair of contests, dubbed the 2022 NHL Global Series, versus the Colorado Avalanche.
Goal: Rick Nash scored numerous goals for the Blue Jackets, but one tally is remembered more than all the rest. During a January 17, 2008 game against the Arizona Coyotes, Nash received the puck at center ice and came in on two Arizona defenseman, deking both out and then also the goalie. The marker was voted the second greatest goal of the 21st century in a 2020 Sportsnet tournament series.
Fight/Brawl: Bob Probert was one of the most feared fighters in NHL history, but that didn’t stop Jody Shelley from taking on the legendary pugilist three times in one 2002 game, with one bout occurring in each period. In a later interview, Shelley called the game “the longest night of my life.” When the two teams clashed again a couple nights later, it was time for round four between the two enforcers.
Injury: During a November 18, 2016 game against the New York Rangers, Matt Calvert was hit in the face with a slapshot, causing blood to stream onto the ice. The gritty forward received 36 stitches to close the wound, but returned to the contest and would score the eventual game-winning goal, while shorthanded. The incident earned Calvert the nickname Stitches.
Penalty: In the 2011 pre-season, James Wisniewski was suspended for a hit to the head of Minnesota Wild player Cal Clutterbuck. The incident cost Wisniewski the remaining pre-season games and eight regular season contests. Wisniewski had been suspended four previous times. It should also be noted, both Jared Boll (four games in 2016) and Nick Foligno (three games in 2019) were suspended for hits to the head of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Wildest Story: In a business where teams are hesitant to let assets walk away for nothing, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen made some against-the-grain decisions at the 2019 trade deadline, when he not only held onto his top goalie and player, when both were on the cusp of unrestricted free agency and likely to leave the team, he added rental players. This led to the surprise sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but ended with Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene all fleeing for greener pastures.
Blooper: Line changes in hockey can be chaotic, sometimes resulting in a too many men on the ice penalty. The Blue Jackets went another direction during a 2019 game against the Boston Bruins, when they only sent out four players for a faceoff in their zone, when they should have put out a full line. The result: Boston scored two seconds after the puck was dropped. Luckily for Columbus, they still won the contest 7-4.
Miscellaneous: The Blue Jackets have always done things differently and that was perhaps most evident with the club hiring Jarmo Kekalainen in 2013 as the first European GM in NHL history. Kekalainen had previously served in executive roles with the Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues. He was leading Finnish Elite League club Jokerit, when hired for the Columbus gig. A decade later, Kekalainen is still at the helm of the Blue Jackets.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Blue Jacket
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Blue Curacao
- Dashes of Orange Bitters
The first martini recipe for the project. I don’t think this cocktail has any connection to the hockey team, other than sharing a name, but it’s the best I could find amongst the vast internet world.