Columbus Blue Jackets: Watching hockey game is only half the fun

Watching hockey game is only half the fun

The first time I attended a Blue Jackets hockey game was in the early 2000s while on a date with my now-husband, Mike. I remember the initial excitement of seeing the bright, white ice rink at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus and the thrill of watching players slam against the Plexiglass panels.

Our enthusiasm for our city’s first professional hockey team kept us coming back. We’d regularly join in choruses of “Let’s go Jackets!” while waving paper cutouts of team member’s faces, such as the handsome Rostislav Klesla and the rebellious Jody Shelley, who was known for starting fights. We got autographs, too, including one from former team captain Rick Nash on my cell-phone case.

  • Columbus Blue JacketsWatching hockey game is only half the fun
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Fast forward to a decade later in February 2015 when we took our two children to see their first hockey game – a matchup between the Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide, where the Jackets have been playing since the expansion team was founded in 2000.

Our 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, seemed especially enthusiastic about the outing. Our son, Max, 5, on the other hand, just wanted Dippin’ Dots – beads of ice cream frozen by liquid nitrogen – but none were to be found.

The surroundings, more than the game, enchanted our children.

First there was Stinger. The mascot, a bright green bug with bulging red eyes sporting a Blue Jackets’ jersey, buzzes around the stadium, interacting with crowd members, launching T-shirts and skating on the ice between the three-period game.

Second there were the prizes. The team’s promotional members hurled empty pizza boxes into the crowd for a chance to win a free pizza. And a remote-controlled blimp that Rosie called “Blimpy” dropped parachute-strapped paraphernalia – more T-shirts.

Next there was the cannon. A replica of an 1857 Napoleon cannon, it’s fired at home games whenever the team takes the ice, scores a goal or wins a game. The cannon complements the teams’ namesake and Ohio history, but be warned: It is loud.

Fourth and foremost there was the Jumbotron. The giant screen, seen by fans from four sides, displays the game and entertainment during commercial breaks and lulls in the action. Rosie kept mugging with her dad in the hopes that they would make it onto the big screen. Alas, they did not. I tried mugging it up with Max, but he was too far gone playing Minecraft on my cell phone to show much interest.

There are a few more things for kids to do around the arena. There’s the IGS Energy Zone, an area where kids can play a makeshift hockey game with soft sticks in a small rink that has a comfy floor. This area is staffed by adults. Our kids also enjoyed stopping at the Fox Sports Ohio Blue Line, the official team store of the Blue Jackets. It was packed with clothes, toys and Blue Jackets memorabilia.

Nationwide Arena’s website lists several no-nos, items that you’re not supposed to bring to a game. They include strollers, backpacks, laptops, air horns and (surprise!) fireworks.

While the Blue Jackets did not win the game, we enjoyed the action of the players battling it out on the ice. Hockey players seem to really earn their money, and it was a lot of fun watching the game from a bird’s-eye view.

The Blue Jackets made sure everyone in the family had fun. Now if only they can serve Dippin’ Dots.

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