From the carnival atmosphere on the Plaza, to the massive line for free Blue Jackets flags (nice idea, Nationwide!!), to the elbow-to-elbow crowds at the R Bar and all of the establishments on Restaurant Row, it was a truly amazing show of support, enthusiasm and civic pride. We stopped at Buca di Beppo for a pre-game dinner, and virtually every patron sported CBJ paraphenalia, as well as the entire staff.
Inside the arena, the buzz was palpable, long before the teams took to the ice in pre-game. "March On" flags adorned every seat, bunting hung from the Club Level facades, and fans were streaming to their seats far in advance of the usual last minute rush. As Aaron Portzline noted in a tweet last night, some of the music selections during the pre-game skate were, uh, .. different.
The Pre-Game festivities themselves were spot on. From John H. McConnell II skating the flag around, to the "Miracle"-themed video presentation, the build up was simultaneously motivating and moving. Great touch adding some highlight clips of Tyler Wright and some of the other originals. Leo was on the money doing the anthem.
Full marks also go out to Adam Proteau of The Hockey News, who appeared in full Civil War regalia to fulfill a promise in his blog back in December, when he predicted the Jackets would fall short of the playoffs. THN did a nice piece on the atmosphere, which you can read here.
I did not think the smattering of boos heard were warranted, but that is to be expected in playoffs, when more fair weather fans jump on the bandwagon. More on that in my game review. The Game Ops people have been listening and observing -- in-game highlights appeared!!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a huge WAY TO GO to the CBJ fan base for squeezing out the local Detroit fan poplulation. Damn few Red Wings backers in attendance, particularly when compared to a regular season game. We were much more visibly (and audibly) represented in Detroit than they were here. Good job to those who worked to restrain the octopus-thrower in the third!
Columbus went a long way to showing the NHL and the hockey community at large that we are a vibrant hockey town with a helluva future. Win or lose, last night was a historic step for the franchise and for the community. Well done, all!!