Welcome to this edition of CBJ FANSided Friday! In this series we will post a short interview with a fan from the Blue Jackets community and ask them about their Jackets fandom. This week is special. We interviewed a member of the Yuengling Cannon Crew, Charlie Prior! Here’s what he had to say:
U&B: When did you first become a Blue Jackets fan, and what drew you towards the team?
Charlie: On October 9th, 2000, I attended my first Blue Jackets game. The game was against the Los Angeles Kings and I believe the Jackets lost 7-1. And I loved every minute of it. The constant flow of the game plus the strength demonstrated by the teams was incredible. Enough to keep a seven year old me still for a few hours, which is nothing short of a miracle. My parents had season tickets and started taking me to games so they could get a few moments where I was actually sitting down.
I soon started playing goalie in the local youth league, emulating my favorite player, Ron Tugnutt. I remember meeting Tugnutt with my uncle at a local Tim Horton‘s and soon donned the number 31 in his honor. I loved the team, the atmosphere of the arena, the Dew-molisher, a mobile T-shirt cannon that came out during intermissions. Everything. For eight years, I was able to use my parent’s season tickets to attend roughly 150 games. Maybe more. And while its no secret that there were more loses than wins, I always stayed by my Jackets.
U&B: Who is your favorite Blue Jackets player on the current roster?
Charlie: This years squad has some fantastic players. I love Boone Jenner‘s fearlessness. Ryan Johansen has an amazing ability to create scoring chances. But my absolute favorite player on the current rooster has to be Artem Anisimov. Arty is extremely skilled offensively but his determination on the forecheck and his constant presence on the penalty kill unit are things that shows his true grit. Not many players do the little things like he does.
U&B: If you could choose the teams next captain right now, who would it be?
Charlie: A captain is someone who plays with passion, experience, and an unselfish attitude. Brandon Dubinsky plays with such tenacity. He is pumped for every game. You can always count on him for a big moment. Dubi has also been to the playoffs a few time with New York, giving him a familiarity some of the young guys on the team could really benefit from. Not to mention he leads the all fowards on the team in assists. He has all of the qualities needed to make a good captain of any squad.
U&B: Who is your favorite team to see the Jackets beat, and why?
Charlie: Well, the easy answer here is everybody. But there are certain teams where a victory just seems so much sweeter. I am a student at THE Ohio State University and we have a song that is short and to the point. The lyrics are, “We don’t give a (darn) for the whole state of Michigan, we’re from O-HI-O.” The Jackets have played against the Detroit Red Wings quite a bit and were the main obstacle for Columbus in the old Central Division. While the NHL has re-aligned the teams, there will always be that history between Ohio State and Michigan driving a rivalry with the Red Wings.
U&B: How do you feel about the start to the season / where do you think the CBJ will finish this year?
Charlie: Through the first half of this year, I have noticed something this team has that previous Jackets squads have lacked: confidence. This team came so close to breaking into the playoffs last year and you can tell that they are hungry for some post-season action. They know that they have the ability to get there and are playing like contenders. The major thing the Jackets need is health. Once they have the full availability of the roster, they will need to figure out how to get all of this talent on the ice, which is a good problem to have. I’m confident that this roster can take us to at least our first playoff win.
U&B: Tell me more about the Yuengling Cannon Crew. What do you do during the games? What is your favorite/least favorite part?
Charlie: A large part of what I do as a member of the Yuengling Cannon Crew is fan interaction. Before each game and during the intermissions, we are showing fans one the most unique arena props in the NHL: a full-sized replica of a civil war cannon. Maybe the word “prop” was an understatement. No matter if people are coming to from around the city or around the world, the cannon is something that is truly special and a big hit with fans of all ages. During some time-outs we toss out some Papa John’s pizza or a few t-shirts.
But my favorite part of the job is being able to cheer on my team. Whether we’re starting a “Lets go Jackets” chant or waving the flags in celebration of a goal, the whole promo team is doing whatever we can to get the fans excited about the game. And boy, do they deliver. We have the best fans in the NHL hands down. I should know. I have been one of them for 14 years. The only part of being on the Yuengling Cannon Crew that I don’t like is that I cant work every game with the whole promo team. There are a lot of talented people on the Yuengling Cannon Crew with me and I just wish that we could work every game together.
U&B: How has being a part of the Yuengling Cannon Crew changed your Jackets fandom or the way you experience the game?
Charlie: To be honest, it hasn’t changed much. I am still going to games, I just can’t tweet as much because I’m a little busy. I watch every away game with the excuse, “I have to. It’s for my job.” The main thing that this changes is my own view of where I stand with the team. Let me explain. In 2007, I attended the NHL Entry Draft held right here in Columbus at Nationwide Arena. There was a celebrity in the house. No it wasn’t Gary Bettman nor number one overall pick Patrick Kane.
It was a presence that has been part of hockey lore since 1893, Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Stanley Cup is a piece of sports history that I have almost idolized for years. And, when I had the chance, I decided not to touch it. I decided not to give it that kiss that so many legends have done throughout the years. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t deserve it. I couldn’t take part in a hockey tradition if I wasn’t in any way responsible for a team obtaining hockey’s ultimate prize.
I realize that this Blue Jackets squad is a long shot to win it all, but that have the heart and support to accomplish anything. And now that I am part of this awesome organization, if they muster up everything they have and bring the Cup to Columbus, I might finally touch it. I might finally give it that sweet kiss that so many people have worked so hard to earn. Because, in a way, I am part of the organization like I haven’t been before. And that makes all the difference.
Everyone at the Union and Blue would like to thank Charlie for taking the time to answering our questions! Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter and stop by the Cannon during home games and say hi!