While the playoffs churn on, we Columbus fans are already looking forward to the entry draft this summer and next season. News about next year’s preseason schedule has already been made public, as the Blue Jackets were chosen to face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the small town of Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario(population 4, 978) as part of the Kraft Hockeyville competition. Then, earlier today, the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline confirmed a Washington Post report that the Blue Jackets would be the Washington Capitals opponent in the second annual Baltimore Hockey Classic at 1st Mariner Arena this coming September. While it’s great for the franchise to get some good exposure in a normally uneventful preseason, I wonder why the team doesn’t seem to be interested in playing a neutral site game in one of Ohio’s other hockey cities.
When he’s been asked about this, GM Scott Howson has cited the lost revenue from moving a home date out of Nationwide Arena as a big factor for not playing a “home” game elsewhere. This certainly makes sense, as you lose all the guaranteed season ticket holder cash, concessions, etc. Although, with Columbus being the second smallest American market in the NHL, with some struggles in the past with gaining brand visibility in Ohio’s other major cities, a neutral site game may bring some intangible value. There are five minor league and junior teams elsewhere in the state, with arena capacities ranging from 4,000 to 20,000, it would be a great experience for hockey fans to see the major league game in their territory, while also getting a chance to further push the Blue Jackets brand. The loss of cash by losing a date at Nationwide could potentially pay dividends down the line. Oddly enough, 97.1’s Lori Schmidt found these tweets related to a potential game that would have been played in Indianapolis, Indiana last preseason. The apparent appearance fee demanded by the franchise caused the idea to be scrapped, which is unfortunate as Indy has not had any pro hockey in the city since the Central Hockey League’s Ice folded back in 2004.