On-Ice Bonding, Momentum, and Camaraderie Are Much More Important During This One-Of-A-Kind Season

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 19, 2021 at 3:42 pm
Feb 18, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Max Domi (16) celebrates a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
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This season has brought on challenges like no other.

Priority number one is keeping everyone safe, and the precautions that need to be taken for that to occur certainly take their toll on everyone involved. It's tough for the Blue Jackets to not be able to go out and celebrate a win, meet somewhere for coffee, or relax and play a round of golf on an off day.

"Especially this year, it's important for morale to get some wins," said John Tortorella. "We just can't see one another anymore, as far as in groups and do things, so winning's pretty important, as far as morale."

After a 3-0 win against Nashville last night, spirits are high, but they can't go out to celebrate. That's why wins are so crucial for building momentum and having fun, because their ice time together is all the interaction they get in person.

"It's kind of a no-fun league right now, because you can't go out to dinner, you can't go out on the road, you can't see one another, you can't play cards on the plane, so the only fun you really do have is scoring goals and hopefully getting an end result, as far as a win," said Tortorella.

Riley Nash, a known enjoyer of White Claws, wishes that the Blue Jackets could spend more time together.

"It's be nice to go out and have a couple pops and just enjoy it and relax...we don't get to spend as much time as we'd like to together," said Nash, who has played well this season in his bottom-six role and developed chemistry with speedy winger Eric Robinson.

The excitement after wins isn't the only thing that's affected when there's limited in-person interaction, though. Losses are just as hard, according to Nash.

"I think it's a little bit harder, when after Carolina when we didn't have our best effort. Maybe you lose one or two in a row, and the overall mood gets down a little bit. You don't have those times where you've had dinners, you've gotten to know one another very well, you've had maybe a night or two out where you've had some fun and the camaraderie is at a high," said Nash.

With traditional team bonding opportunities unavailable, the Blue Jackets have to draw from their on-ice experiences together.

"It's hard because you can't really draw on those (traditional) experiences, so it just makes it all that more important when we're at the rink to stay six feet apart and be safe but also reach out and chat and get to know one another and have everybody get on the same page, and kind of rely on each other to bring that fun out while we're out at the rink," said Nash.

The Blue Jackets certainly had fun on the ice last night against Nashville, when they got back to playing their style of hockey. They're feeling good ahead of their rematch with the Predators tomorrow night.

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