Investing in the fans

This is a difficult post to write.  On one hand, I want to celebrate the Blue Jackets, the CBJ front office and management, and the fans who made Fan Fest so much fun and so special this past Friday, but on the other, the shadow of September 11, 2001 makes it almost impossible to write light-hearted commentary on a gathering of fans for a sports franchise.

I may have disagreed with many things then-President Bush said and did during his tenure in office, but I agree with this:

Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t conduct business…

Press conference (October 112001)

As I pause for reflection today and remember what I was doing that fateful day and enjoy watching an airplane cross the sky, I will do as President Bush wanted and what I may be so bold as to assume those who died because they were merely going about their daily business would wish:  that we continue living our lives unmolested by those who wish to change or destroy us.

So, let us never forget what happened that day, but as we do, let’s enjoy the life that we have, including the small things that make our lives enjoyable, including the beginning of a new hockey season.

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The Jackets’ organization outdid themselves for FanFest. I simply could not believe the extent of the activities; so many activities for the children (balloon creations, a bounce house, skating, street hockey…..), access to most of the roster (Q&A sessions, autograph sessions, photo sessions) and coaches (loved the Q&A session), sessions on the ice with the players, and the very fun skills competiton.

I got to the festivities late, but still had time to meet Mark Dekanich (my new fave player!) and babble incoherently at Marc Methot.  I saw lots of children there, which I loved, as they are the future fans ( so cute to see so many kids in mini jerseys!) and got to visit with people I haven’t really seen in the off season.

As an aside, next time you go to Nationwide Arena, take some time to notice the people who serve you.  Did you know the ushers lead each other in cheers before the games?  Did you know that some of the concession workers, who don’t make much money and don’t get discounts to the retail store, buy gear because they love the team?  Some of the retail workers have been fans for 10 years, driving from hometowns in Portsmouth and Cleveland with their families and then as teen-agers to see the team and that working in the retail store is a big thrill.  I assure you, it really was a pleasure for those folks to work at Fan Fest this year.  We’re as psyched as you are for the new season to start.

As much as I loved seeing some of the players up close and personal and watching them interact with the fans, the best part of the evening was the skills competiton :)  It was amazing to see how bendy Dekanich was and he certainly put on a show for us.  If this is him just messing around for a no-stress skills comp for the fans, I can only imagine what he is like during a real game.  (inner fangirl moment here).  Ryan Russell not only thrilled with his shoot out skills, but showed a ability to find the net.  A little ripple of “oh, my gosh” went around the section where I was sitting when he was interviewed.  He and Kris sound SO MUCH ALIKE.  I know, not surprising, as they are twins, but really.  I wasn’t a fan when Aaron Johnson first joined the Jackets, but I sure am a fan of his now!  You could just tell he was having a great time.  Watching Maksim Mayorov, Martin St. Pierre, and Nicholas Drazenovic play was a treat….I had heard their names, but had never put faces or numbers with those names.  And of course, always so fun to see Matt Calvert on the ice!   It was lovely to see players have so much fun with the game they grew up playing and to which they have dedicated their lives.

The Jacket Backers and Arch City Army were present, recruiting new members and I hope they both had success.  I am glad we have 2 such dedicated groups of fans to support the team and at least one player has embraced the idea of these fan groups.

What else can I say?  There seemed to be good attendance at the event and the excitement for the new season was tangible; you could almost feel it in the air.  The players I saw seemed relaxed and eager to get started with the season.  This was a great event, “fun” doesn’t even do it justice.  And for the first time that I’ve been a fan, it truly seems as though the team management and those who make the decisions are investing not only in making the team better, but in growing and investing in the fans.

So, let’s drop the puck and get this season going already!

 

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