As my colleagues continue to provide tremendous hockey-focused coverage here, every now and then its fun to pop in and look at what the Blue Jackets are doing in the off-season away from the on-ice product.
Today was the inaugural “Front Street Friday“. For those of you on twitter, you can follow updates by searching the hashtag #CBJFSF. You could not have asked for a more beautiful day, and it always amazes me to take a look at the tremendous location that the Arena District has become. As a born and raised Columbus-ite, we couldn’t have imagined that 30 years ago!
The Blue Jackets had set up all over the Front Street Plaza which helped make it easy to figure out what was going on and the event was just as promised. I happily got myself in line for RJ Umberger autographs with friends, and while we waited, took full advantage of the dollar dogs and drinks. The Blue Jackets team that was there was easy going and, extra bonus, had CBJ branded sunscreen for those of us in line – sounds funny, but believe me, if you’ve shopped for sunscreen lately, or tried to take some during plane travel, or stood in line at high noon on a sunny day, this was tremendous.
What was fun, once again, was to see so many folks from the CBJ fan community. Fellow bloggers, twitterers and fans I’ve met through the seasons were there and, while the RJ autograph session became the focus, it also provided a central meeting place to see one another and watch the fun that is fans meeting one of their favorite players. (You can see the full photoset from the Blue Jackets HERE)
The afternoon felt fun, and easy going and I would have stayed longer to hang out, but….
…there was skating to be had.
As some may already know – I’m learning how to skate and play hockey. A daunting task to be sure, but part of the fun is finding every opportunity to get some ice time. The Central Ohio Chillers do an outstanding job of providing lots of open skates, so a group of us decided we’d make it a hockey-filled lunch and get some skating time in post dogs and RJ. Little did we know, RJ wasn’t done with us yet ;)
Close to 1PM, as our allotted time was winding down, all of a sudden, in the midst of me trying to transition smoothly from skating forwards to backwards, everyone started to congregate at one of the benches BECAUSE RJ UMBERGER STOPPED BY TO CHAT WITH US.
Its hard to find words to talk about our Jackets players, because I have yet to meet one in person who has been anything but gracious and friendly, but this was truly a great experience. RJ chatted with us for a while, shared some thoughts on hockey, answered our questions, and was genuinely fun to be around. RJ was relaxed and our time talking with him didn’t have a formal “Q&A” or “rehearsed” feel. Amazingly, it felt like talking with a buddy, and while I love meet and greets, and autograph sessions, its times like this – and other casual events such as celebrity bartending – when players are just hanging out, that it really reinforces a feeling of “our team” and “our guys” and reminds us why we love those in Union Blue so much. I appreciated seeing RJ in this light – his attitude for winning and confidence really shone through and only reinforced, that he’s a fantastic guy and one of the go-to guys when people talk leadership.
Obviously, the time with RJ ended the Front Street Friday on a tremendously high note, but I would definitely say that this is something the organization should consider repeating. Fans are definitely looking for ways to stay connected through the summer and, having the opportunity to enjoy a gorgeous day, friends who share my hockey passion, some skating and most of all time getting to know our team a little bit more made for a great day.