For just a minute here, let’s pretend that our venue concerns are non existent. We can play an outdoor game at Lower.com Field – or even Ohio Stadium (dreaming, I know). The NHL wants to bring an outdoor game to Columbus to showcase the event in a new market, but there’s still one big issue…
These Jackets stink.
Look back at the history of these events, and you will find a smattering of games highlighted by all-world superstar talent (think Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin). You’ll see games highlighted by original six matchups (Boston Bruins or Chicago Blackhawks). Or, big TV marketability (New York, Los Angeles, etc).
What you don’t see in these events: lottery teams. Which is exactly what the Blue Jackets are this season, like it or not. The biggest thing the Blue Jackets can do to attract one of these events to Columbus, is to build an exciting, competitive team.
Maybe they’re on their way, but it’s going to be at least 1-2 more years before they can get there. But, if this team is rolling out a Stanley Cup contender at any point, it will be impossible for the league not to give them some kind of showcase event. That’s the way these things work – look no further than the Carolina Hurricanes, who are hosting a Stadium Series game next month in Raleigh, NC.
Outdoor NHL hockey in Raleigh is not something that anyone probably ever thought they would say. But the Canes are really good, so here they are, hosting the Washington Capitals, in February, a month where their average high temperature is 54 degrees.
It’s fair to compare the two teams – more so than it is to compare the Blue Jackets to, say, the Minnesota Wild in this regard. You can expect a historically hockey mad city like Minneapolis to get an outdoor game; that’s exactly the kind of look the league wants to have in these events.
But Raleigh, North Carolina? Or Columbus, Ohio? You don’t think of hockey right away with either of these cities. The Hartford Whalers relocated from Hartford in 1997 to become the Carolina Hurricanes. If you’re old enough to remember the events that led up to this (like myself); you’ll recall that then-owner Peter Karmanos wanted to move the team to Columbus, but the voters of our city rejected a tax to cover the costs of a new downtown arena.
So he chose the next location on his list to move his team, and they wound up in Raleigh. How much differently would things be if you swapped the Blue Jackets out for the Canes right now? Would we have our outdoor game, with Rod Brind’Amour having moved to Columbus, coaching the Blue Jackets, instead of Raleigh, coaching the Canes?
It’s hard to say. But, you can make the comparison that the Canes, as constructed, are where the Jackets hope to be in 2-3 years. At which point, we can get out our pitchforks (or, muskets and cannons, if you prefer) and rally to NHL headquarters, demanding an outdoor game to showcase our Stanley Cup contender.
Until then, I’m in no hurry to see our Jackets get lambasted 9-4, or worse, on national TV again. And the league isn’t in any hurry to promote a roster that is half full of AHL players and prospects, nor should they be. So don’t take offense that the Kraken get an outdoor game before us. They’ve built a winning team through whatever means they had. Now we just have to do the same.