Kole Sherwood grew up watching the Blue Jackets. He grew up emulating NHL players on The Chiller’s sheets of ice all around Columbus. So, in a way, he grew up with the game of hockey as it also grew in the city.
And today, he pen to paper on a contract that etched his name into the history of the franchise.
Sherwood signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Blue Jackets, opting to forgo his commitment to Boston University and begin his path to the NHL via the Ontario Hockey League. His OHL rights are owned by the London Knights, and while it’s likely he will play there in the fall, it’s not quite a done deal yet.
But that was on the back burner on Tuesday afternoon at Nationwide Arena. This time, Sherwood wasn’t in the building to watch a hockey game or go for a skate in the OhioHealth Ice Haus – he was here to become the first Columbus born and raised kid to sign a contract with the Blue Jackets.
For the Sherwoods, other kids playing hockey all over central Ohio, the city, and the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets program that put him on this path, it was a historic day.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Sherwood said. “But it’s setting the pipeline for other kids to follow. (The contract) was definitely a surprise. It’s nice. I started playing when I was about four years old. Other people have come (into hockey) from Columbus, Ohio, but I was the first native to sign with the hometown team.”
KOLE SHERWOOD SIGNS
Along with older brother Kiefer (who plays at Miami University in Oxford), Kole was invited to and attended Blue Jackets development camp last week. Make no mistake: they were not just ‘happy to be here’ participants; Kole went undrafted in the 2015 NHL Draft, and while that was disappointing, he refocused and set his sights on turning a few heads in the Blue Jackets organization.
“I think it’s all about your attitude,” Sherwood said. “Right after I wasn’t drafted, I was disappointed in myself, obviously, but you (have) two options: you can shut down, but I came to camp and proved myself.”
With the eyes of coaches, scouts and management on him, he did that and more.
“We saw a hockey player that can play,” said John Davidson, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations. “I know he wasn’t drafted, but we invited (Kole) and his brother to our development camp with a lot of really good players there, and they both played very well. With Kole, he can skate really well, he’s got the ability to make plays. He had no fear, no trepidation whatsoever.
“We had all our scouts here and a number of our coaches who watched it closely. This is something that the young man earned. Kole’s a good hockey player. He’s got a future ahead of him, and I think he’s got the mentality where he really wants to treat it that way.”
Kole’s parents, Roger and Yuko, got the boys started playing hockey at a young age. Kole began at age 4, he said, and both Sherwoods spent a lot of time learning how to skate, and then, getting better and better at skating.
As they got older, their desire to play at a higher level grew even stronger. Eventually, both made it to the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets program under the guidance of head coach and program coordinator Ed Gingher, who, along with several friends and teammates, accompanied Kole to Nationwide Arena as he signed his first contract.
Sherwood’s signing is another success story for Gingher’s program, which has seen the likes of Sean Kuraly, Connor Murphy and, most recently, Jack Roslovic drafted by NHL teams – Roslovic going in the first round, No. 25 overall, to the Winnipeg Jets a few weeks ago.
And now, as hockey continues to grow and thrive in Columbus, the younger generation has a new poster child to look up to – and the hope and belief is that there will be plenty more success stories to be told in the years ahead.
“I think it’s gratifying for a lot of different people,” Davidson said. “Kole has earned it. He’s had a great run as a young hockey player and he’s got a great future ahead of him. And for the city, this goes back to way before I got here: there was a vision by the Blue Jackets, led by John H. McConnell, to build rinks and to get the kids playing. When you see this today, it’s a really good thing.
“There’s a great deal of growth with youth hockey in the city, there are a lot more rinks in the city than there used to be. When you see kids love it and have success at it, the future is unlimited.”