The Columbus Blue Jackets are an American professional ice hockey team based in Columbus, Ohio, that plays in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL).
The Blue Jackets joined the NHL in 2000 alongside fellow expansion team the Minnesota Wild. The franchise’s nickname, the product of a name-the-team contest, pays homage to the many Ohioans who served in the Union army during the American Civil War and to the manufacture in Columbus of many of the uniforms worn by that army. The Blue Jackets’ first three seasons ended in last-place divisional finishes. A highlight of that period came in 2002 when the team drafted left wing and future All-Star Rick Nash with the first overall selection of the NHL draft. Nash’s presence helped Columbus escape the divisional cellar for the first time in 2003–04, and the team qualified for its first postseason berth (a first-round loss to the Detroit Red Wings) in the 2008–09 season. Following that play-off appearance, subsequent Blue Jacket squads returned to the lower echelons of the NHL.
As part of an NHL realignment, Columbus moved from the Western Conference to the Eastern after the 2012–13 season. In the team’s first season playing in the Eastern Conference, it qualified for the play-offs, where Columbus won the first two postseason games in franchise history before ultimately losing its opening series to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team then went two seasons without a postseason berth before posting a franchise-best 108 points in 2016–17. However, the Blue Jackets won just a single play-off game before again being eliminated by the Penguins.
The story of how the Columbus Blue Jackets became the Blue Jackets is one that took more than a few days to come to fruition. The story begins in 1996, when Columbus Hockey Limited, a partnership of five investors interested in attracting a National Hockey League expansion team to Columbus, Ohio, submitted an application and the $100,000 fee to the NHL office on Nov. 1.
A little less than two months later, Columbus Hockey Limited made a formal presentation to the NHL in New York. The following four months were filled with anxiety for the partnership as they awaited the official announcement from the NHL. The announcement was set to happen during the month of May, but it was delayed until June. During that time, Nationwide Insurance announced a plan to privately finance a $150 million arena in downtown Columbus on May 31, 1997.
The NHL then made its official announcement on June 25, 1997, a day that will live in Blue Jackets history forever. The NHL awarded the city of Columbus an expansion franchise along with Nashville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
With a franchise in hand and an arena set to break ground, next came the naming of the team. Looking to get as many suggestions as possible, the Columbus franchise decided that it would be best to have a little more input.
In conjunction with Wendy’s Restaurants, the franchise held a “Name the Team” contest throughout central Ohio during the month of August 1997, which gave fans throughout the area an opportunity to name the team. The plan worked out as over 14,000 entries were submitted. During the “Name the Team” contest, majority owner John H. McConnell was asked to fill out a questionnaire for the National Hockey League to help the league get a better idea of what Columbus stands for and the history of the city.
With help from the NHL, the Columbus franchise narrowed the 14,000 entries down to 10 names. Then with the information received from Mr. McConnell, the League and the franchise narrowed the list of potential names down to two – Blue Jackets and Justice.
The franchise explored all of the options of the two names, but it was the Blue Jackets name that intrigued the NHL and the Columbus franchise the most.
It was first thought that the Blue Jackets were named after the Indian chief, Blue Jacket, from Xenia, Ohio, but that was not the case.
The Blue Jackets name was selected because the name pays homage to Ohio’s contributions to American history and the great pride and patriotism exhibited by its citizens, especially during the Civil War as both the state of Ohio and the city of Columbus were significantly influential on the Union Army. Ohio contributed more of its population to the Union Army than any other state, while many of the Blue Coats worn by the Union soldiers were manufactured in Columbus.
With a name in place, the work really began to pick up. Next on the list were the selection of the logo, jerseys and a mascot. Just as the selection of the name process went, the Columbus franchise reviewed numerous logos before it settled on one primary logo.
The primary Blue Jackets logo that was selected features a star-studded red ribbon unfurled in the shape of the team’s initials, CBJ, with an electric green hockey stick cutting through the center to represent the “J.” The 13 stars represent each of the original 13 U.S. Colonies and signify patriotism. The star on top of the stick signifies Columbus as the state capital.
Shortly thereafter, Stinger was introduced as the mascot, the “Bug with an Attitude.” Stinger is a symbol to characterize the citizens of Columbus known for their hard work and pride for their team.
With a name set and with a logo and mascot selected, it was time to make the official announcement. On Nov. 11, 1997, team officials announced the name of the team would be the Blue Jackets, celebrating patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, more specifically, the city of Columbus.
The Blue Jackets secondary logo and alternate jersey were introduced on Columbus Day 2003. The secondary logo contains a blue Union Army cap that features two crossed hockey sticks and is inspired by those worn by soldiers during the Civil War. It lies on a red with white trim background surrounded by a blue with silver trim oval containing two stars anchoring the words “Columbus Blue Jackets.” The alternate is inspired by the state flag of Ohio and is displayed in the shape of the letter “C.” That image overlays the familiar Blue Jackets’ star, which signifies Columbus as the state’s capital. The state flag of Ohio, called the Ohio burgee, is based upon the pennant used by the Ohio cavalry from 1862-65.
And with that, the Columbus Blue Jackets came to life. From the initial application to the building of the arena to the naming of the team, the process took steps in building a final product, but it’s a final product that will be a part of Columbus forever.
Here’s what to expect from the Columbus Blue Jackets
Current form: No team has scored more since the beginning of March than the Blue Jackets. Still, they sat many of their stars in their final game of the season and lost, meaning they’d avoid the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the process.
How they can win: Likely Vezina Trophy nominee Sergei Bobrovsky stands on his head to get through a crowded Eastern Conference.
How they can lose: They’d have to go through the Washington Capitals and likely the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds. Oh, wait.
Player to watch: I’m a big, big Artemi Panarin fan. I’m still shocked the Blackhawks traded the insanely skilled winger before this season. His puck-moving skills are still some of the best in the league and he scored at a point-per-game clip without any other Grade A linemates.
Fun fact: The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff round in franchise history. Sorry, my definition of fun has changed as I’ve gotten older.
Why should you care? More Blue Jackets wins means more camera time for enigmatic coach John Tortorella.