Highlighting the curious, the obscure and the best of Columbus Blue Jackets NHL memorabilia

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Might Have Been - Columbus Blue Jackets Jersey Concept

Reader Nathan submits our latest feature, and it's a doozy! It's a Pro Player jersey concept for the Columbus Blue Jackets from around 1998 or 1999. The final jersey design was announced on October 15, 1999 so I would say this predates that announcement by at least several months.  Prototype jerseys are exceedingly rare, and eagle eyed collectors are happy to obtain them when the opportunity arises.

Many of the elements made it into the final version of the team's jersey, others introduced years later and some may never be used, but are often part of the discussion.  Pro Player replicas were some of the best jerseys made at the time and it's a shame they went out of business before the start of the 2000-01 season. The tag on this example shows the version as 10B2.

The first, most noticeable difference from the final Columbus jersey design is the use of chevrons on the sleeves. These symbols are synonymous with military and in line with the heritage of the Blue Jackets the team name is based upon. These have been seen in design drawings for subsequent Columbus jersey designs, but they've yet to make the cut. One of the problems that keeps this from being used is the requirement for numbers on the arms of all NHL jerseys. While it looks nice enough in these photos on a blank jersey, if you add the numbers, the design becomes cluttered and less pleasing. 

A lace-up collar would eventually become an element in the first Columbus alternate jersey in 2003 as well as the current alternate introduced in 2010. At the time, it would have made Columbus the second team in the league to utilize this now common (and overused) design.

Another interesting difference is the angled, sewn star pattern on the cuffs of the sleeves. The eventual design would use four stars instead of five in a straight pattern and they would be sublimated into the fabric and not sewn.

The blues on the entire jersey are a lighter shade than the final design. The stinger patch and crest both use a lighter base shade than the final version and the jersey itself incorporates a very light blue as it's primary accent color with darker blue trim and grey in the collar. A similar light blue, darker blue and gray pattern is used in the current alternate jersey.

This is a nice bit of Columbus Blue Jackets history to be sure.  I hope that someday fans and collectors can get a glimpse into other proposed designs from this era.  Do you have a submission for us?  Send it in! cbjmemorabilia [at] gmail [dot] com

Thursday, January 23, 2014

1000 Games Ago

Tonight, January 23, 2014, the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate their 1000th game.  In honor of this occasion, many fans are looking back at their memories of the team over the years.  Today's entry takes us back to the beginning with a couple of game worn jerseys from the inaugural season.

Tyler Wright personifies the first Blue Jackets team to me.  He was hard working and gritty with just enough skill to balance the permanent chip on his shoulder.  This jersey would have been worn the first half of the season based on markings behind the crest.  It was certainly used in the first regular season game in franchise history on October 7, 2000 against the Chicago Blackhawks.  Wright assisted on the second goal in franchise history that night as well.

AP Photo

I can't make a jersey post without adding a little jersey nerdiness, so bear with me on this part:
Typical of all first season jerseys, it has a removeable velcro letter on the top left of the jersey.  Photos show that even captain Lyle Odelein had a velcro C, making things easier on the equipment staff if coach Dave King were to move the letters around on any given night.  NHL equipment managers don't really do this much anymore, often just opting for different jerseys for a player who is part of a rotating captaincy - one with letter sewn on, one without.
Ok, I feel better having included that and it wasn't so bad to learn that, was it?

Moving on, we have the favorite jersey of my collection. Goalie Ron Tugnutt took control of the net early on in the inaugural season and ended up tying the NHL record for goalie wins with an expansion franchise (22).  This road sweater is from the first set of 2000-01 jerseys, meaning it was used in the first half of the season just like the Wright jersey.  It was worn in the first franchise victory in Calgary and again in the first franchise shutout on December 18, 2000 in Montreal.

AP Photo

Tugnutt, the only goalie I'm aware of to receive votes for President of the United States, was instantly a fan favorite in Columbus, and you still see Tugger jerseys in the arena on any given night.  His scrambling style, affable personality and success made him easy for early Columbus fans to cheer.

When I watch the team today, I'm often reminded of that first team and that first year. You can see some of that inaugural team in the 2013-14 team. There is a little of the same attitude, a lot of the same grit and quite a bit more youth and skill, but most of all, you get the same sense of putting the team first above all.  You can usually tell when a team is built the right way and playing well together because it's difficult for fans to pick out a favorite player. Is it Johansen, Atkinson, Umberger, Bobrovsky, Johnson or Wisniewski? Wasn't it once hard to choose between Tugnutt, Knutsen, Sanderson, Heinze, Vyborny, or Klesla? This kind of thing, these types of players, among the other things mentioned, are why it's so easy for fans to support this team, why the electricity is returning to Nationwide Arena and why soon, it will again be the best rink in the NHL.
It has never been as clear to me as it is today what this franchise is all about and where we're headed. It's going to be a wild, fun ride, and I can't wait for the next 1000 games.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Columbus - The Puck Stops HERE!

In honor of this recent tweet by our friend Dave Maetzold, I thought I might start this blog up again with a pretty unique item from the beginning of the NHL era in Columbus.

This puck is likely one of the earliest pieces of Columbus Blue Jackets memorabilia.  On June 25, 1997 in downtown Columbus, 500 of these pucks were handed out to those who attended the press conference announcing the NHL expansion to Columbus, OH.  Each puck is numbered and this particular example is number 6 of 500.  There is another version of this puck handed out at another time that has the same orange text and NHL logo on one side and has "Commemorative Edition" x of 2000 on the other side.

photo of Mr. Mac courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets (bluejackets.nhl.com)

There's not a lot to say about it - after all, it's just a puck - but at the same time, it brings back wonderful memories of the earliest days of the announcement.  Hockey has always had a strong following in Columbus, with the Checkers, Seals, Owls and Chill in particular over the years.  The success of the ECHL's Columbus Chill in the 1990s was key to the NHL's interest in Columbus. While we've had good and bad times over the years, few can argue the excitement and pride we all share in being part of the best hockey league in the world.

Although I had to obtain this in an auction to benefit Jacket Backers instead of at the original event nearly 17 years ago, it's still a treasured part of my collection.

Recently, I was also able to add the following companion t-shirt which was probably released around the time of the second 'commemorative edition' puck.  I can't tell you if these were also given away, sold or otherwise distributed and would welcome any information you can provide.

Update: Here are some more additions from the same campaign.

10 foot square vinyl banner

Corrugated sign, pom-pom, pennant and button