The Fuse: Reliving Fond Expansion Season Memories of the Blue Jackets, Evaluating A Potential Rick Nash Homecoming and More

By Rob Mixer on October 11, 2017 at 6:00 am
Rick Nash of the New York Rangers

USA TODAY Sports

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Spoiler alert: I grew up in Columbus and was a freshly-minted teenager when the Blue Jackets were born.

My entire hockey team had come to my family's house for a party. All of my roller hockey buddies were there. We didn’t have many ice hockey options (and it was expensive as hell), so we gathered a dozen of us and played in the street before eventually graduating to a local inline league. Having the Blue Jackets in town was life-changing for many of us; we had a team to cheer for, and we could stop pretending we liked the Colorado Avalanche just because they had well-known players.

I went against the grain and adopted the Ottawa Senators for about a year — I even bought a jersey from the Eastbay catalog.

The inaugural Blue Jackets were actually a competitive team and they provided my friends and I with some memorable moments in our childhoods. That first-ever game when we were introduced to Blue Jackets Hockey, an early 3-0 lead that ended with a 5-3 regulation loss. Thankfully, hopefully, those days are long gone.

Ron Tugnutt earning mayoral votes.

Tyler Wright’s hat trick that sealed an overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lyle Odelein being very slow and not-good, but still finding a way to beat the hell out of people.

Doug MacLean getting pissed off about a lot of things.

We won a street hockey tournament in that first year — we won’t speak on the quality of competition — and the grand prize was a pack of tickets to a future game against the St. Louis Blues. It was one of the coolest things I can remember. I mean, we were sitting in Nationwide Arena watching an N-H-L game in our hometown. It impacted us in a huge way for a long time. It’s why, as broke-ass college students at Ohio University, we sacrificed 30-packs of Natural Light to drive 90 minutes each way to watch Blue Jackets games together.

We once drove in an actual snowstorm to see a Tuesday night game against the Edmonton Oilers. The Blue Jackets tied the game with 0.7 seconds left in regulation and lost in OT. Then we drove home in a Level 2 snow emergency.

To this day, the Blue Jackets are a significant part of our lives and it’s because we fell in love with that expansion season team.

I couldn’t help but get all nostalgic last night seeing the Vegas Golden Knights make their home debut at T-Mobile Arena in front of 18,000 people who felt the same way we did 17 years ago. We didn’t give a shit if the Jackets won or lost. We had a team. We could wear their logo and go see them at events around town, even if it meant one of our friends accidentally creeping out Sergei Fedorov by inviting him to play street hockey with us.

Kids are going to fall in love with the Golden Knights just because they’re the local team. They may get to know the players (many of whom won’t be around that long, but so what?) but they’ll come to love what the team represents. It’s the jump-start of a new chapter in the city’s history and it comes at a time when Las Vegas needs to heal. Sports can’t solve many of the world’s problems, but at the very least, they can provide temporary joy.

I’m excited for the people of Las Vegas and their fans, who get to experience something they will never forget.

They did their ceremony right last night, honoring the victims, first responders and survivors of the horrible events that took place 10 days ago.

They saw an incredible start, scoring four times in the first 10 minutes and at times making it look easy.

Good for Vegas. Good for hockey.


AND THEN...

A year later, a lot of things changed when Rick Nash made his Blue Jackets debut.

Most people in this town had no god damn clue what a “power forward” was or just how talented Nash was. They only knew he was being billed as the first superstar in franchise history, and he certainly delivered early on. My youngest sister loved him so much that she wrote his name in sidewalk chalk on one of the walls in our house. Parents were thrilled.

Nash is, to this point, the most accomplished player in the history of the Blue Jackets. He may end his career that way.

In fact, I hope he ends his career the way he started it: wearing a Blue Jackets sweater.

Do I think it’ll happen? Yes.

Do I have specific intel on this? No.

Why am I so confident? I have no clue.

Nash isn’t off to the hottest start this season and he’s earning a pretty penny ($7.8 million is steep), but his price tag will come down once he hits the free agent market this summer. The Rangers aren’t saying whether they have interest in keeping Nash around, but it would be a surprise if they do. And if he reaches free agency, why wouldn’t the Blue Jackets make a pitch?

He wants to play here in Columbus again, and if he had his way, I think he would prefer to end his career here.

Come home, Rick. We'll forgive this.

Star Wars Nugget of the Day

What is Leia waiting for in The Last Jedi trailer, standing solo in the hangar of a giant base on Crait? It looks ominous and foreboding, like she knows what's coming next can't be good. I've been thinking about this shot since the trailer dropped on Monday night.

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