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

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.

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