Columbus Blue Jackets: A Look Back at Rick Nash’s Career in Columbus

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: Prior to the game between the New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers was honored for playing in his 1000th NHL game at Madison Square Garden on November 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: Prior to the game between the New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers was honored for playing in his 1000th NHL game at Madison Square Garden on November 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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It’s no secret, Rick Nash was the Columbus Blue Jackets first real superstar. His #61 deserves to hang from the Nationwide Arena rafters for the test of time.

The news slowly fell yesterday that Rick Nash is contemplating his retirement from the National Hockey League. Although Darren Dreger says Nash’s agent firmly denies Nash will retire this season and Aaron Portzline wrote an article that Nash still wants to play, it is worth it to look back at Rick Nash’s career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and what honors he should receive for his time with the franchise.

Rick Nash came to Columbus in 2002 as an 18-year-old kid from Ontario who was preparing to play for a franchise that two years’ prior, did not exist. As the top overall selection in the 2002 NHL Draft, Nash was tasked with being the cornerstone player for a team made of washed up veterans and other castaways from the expansion draft.

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A Rocket Richard Trophy later, Rick Nash was a budding star in the league, and was trying to take the Jackets to where they’ve never gone before, the postseason.

Being named team captain in 2008, the quieter Rick Nash, had been the only bright spot for those early 2000’s Columbus squads. In 2009, he finally got to take Columbus to their first taste of the playoffs, where they were sent home in four games by the rival Detroit Red Wings.

In 2011, the Jackets came into the season with tremendous expectations. After trading for Philadelphia Flyers standout Jeff Carter, and signing James Wisniewski, the Jackets were a dark horse pick by many to finish in a postseason position. But from there, the Jackets faltered Carter asked his way out of town, and slowly Nash realized it would never work for him in Columbus.

In the 2012 offseason, Rick Nash requested a trade, and it was granted as he became a member of the New York Rangers. Never forgetting his time in Columbus, over the years Rick Nash has been a sour taste in the mouth of Jackets fans.

For most Columbus fans who only started paying attention in 2013 or 2014 after their playoff run vs. Pittsburgh part one, their only memory of Rick Nash is him pushing Bobrovsky after the Columbus netminder came out and slashed Nash’s leg. A typical hockey play for those who had watched for years, the newer CBJ fans opinion of Nash was only that of betrayal, and not of a player who gave everything to this team for almost a decade.

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For this reason, and this reason alone, Nash has come back to Columbus with a rain of boos. As someone who had been a fan since the early years, this has been really disheartening as Nash still has lived in Columbus during the offseason and also has continued to call Columbus home well after his Blue Jackets playing days.

His brother also resides in the city, and coaches’ young goaltenders in the greater Columbus region.

As the franchise’s first superstar, Rick Nash should definitely have his number #61 sent up to the rafters as the franchise’s first honoree. Whether newer fans will admit it or not, Rick Nash is an important part of this franchises history, and deserves to be honored as such.

If Tampa Bay can retire Martin St. Louis’ number #26, who left the team on much worse terms than Nash did in Columbus, the new fans should accept our teams past.

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As a team with zero banners that are team or player related, Nash’s 61 should hang as a reminder of where the team came from, and where we’re going. As we move forward as a franchise, #61 has remained untouched, along with what I will imagine #72 will also one-day hang from the rafters. Even after what is likely to be an ugly breakup between the Jackets front office and Sergei Bobrovsky, I anticipate #72 to join #61 above Nationwide ice.