Humor us for a minute...
The NHL decides to not have an Original Six team play in the annual outdoor games.
This leaves the door wide open for the Columbus Blue Jackets to make their debut on a (insert any weather pattern possible) winter night in Ohio.
However, given that the Jackets are only scheduled to play in TWO nationally-televised games (a sizable increase from one game the year before), the Florida Panthers may have better luck than Columbus in snagging a host spot.
Let's just say the idea were to get pitched to Gary Bettman, and he happened to zone out for just long enough to green-light the idea of the Jackets playing in a Winter Classic or a Stadium Series game.
Who would the Jackets play against, and what venue would suit them best?
Ohio Stadium (Home of the Ohio State Buckeyes - 104,944 person capacity)
I mean, just imagine it. My God.
We've seen how insane a home game against Rutgers can be in the blazing heat of a September in Columbus – now imagine the same intensity of Ohio professional sports fans (who are just dying for the Blue Jackets to win), and throw them in a snowing 'Shoe to watch a hockey game. The place would be ROCKING.
The real question is whether 100,000-plus seats could be filled. If the Jackets play Pittsburgh, it'd be a sellout (we know the bandwagoners would show up).
FirstEnergy Stadium (Home of the Cleveland Browns - 73,200 person capacity)
Before it said in the comments - there will and should be no baseball stadiums on this list. For one reason: you'd need a telescope to see any sort of action happening.
Cleveland fans in general are nuts, and you know would pack their home stadium to root against anyone who isn't an Ohio team. Fans would need to fill more than triple the amount of a Jackets game to get a sellout. It's plausible.
The real trick would be finding a new name for the 'Dawg Pound' just for this occasion. Maybe the...'Bee's Nest'? You know, because, Stinge...nevermind.
Mapfre Stadium (Home of the Columbus Crew - 19,968 person capacity)
Okay, hear me out. This venue holds slightly more fans than Nationwide Arena, which checks in at 18,144 before standing room, but MAPFRE Stadium has (and could again) installed temporary seating that lifts its capacity to somewhere around 22,000.
Would showing the Columbus pride to Anthony Precourt stop him from being, you know, the way he is? Probably not. But having pissed-off Crew fans pack into their stomping grounds to take their anger out on Patric Hörnqvist? That might be worth the price of admission alone.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
Shouldn't be a surprise here that they'd be the Jackets' No. 1 choice and best option for selling out whatever stadium the game was being played in.
It's certainly more of a rivalry for the Jackets than it is the Penguins (sort of like how Penn State football views Ohio State football), but we're getting close to an era where their hatred might begin to match evenly. After two playoff loses and dozens of other reasons to be foaming at the mouth at the idea of playing Pittsburgh, an outdoor game against them would be bonkers.
The Detroit Red Wings
This would be a classic instance of kicking someone while they're down, and oh it would feel so good.
After years and years of Red Wings fans flooding Nationwide Arena and seemingly getting the whole crowd to chant "Let's Go Red Wings," it would be a sight to see if the Jackets could take down their former master (while that master is currently rebuilding).
Put this game in the 'Shoe, and it's 'The Game', albeit a JV version. That'd be fun.
The Washington Capitals
What better way to say "Hey, we've got next", than giving the Capitals a beatdown after losing four straight in that opening-round series in April. That'd wipe Alexander Ovechkin's toothless grin off his face (probably not, but on the real, it was great to watch him hoist the Cup).
These matchups have always been a blast – full of physical play and stars shining. All it would take is one dropping of the gloves between Josh Anderson and Tom Wilson under a starry night for the rivalry to really get bubbling.
Well, since we have a few hundred years before the league would ever put the Jackets in an outdoor game, we definitely have some time to brainstorm:
Which team is your ideal Blue Jackets matchup in an outdoor game, and what stadium should they play it in? Let us know in the comments.
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