For Darren and Marsha Shulman, the words hockey and love are one and the same.
From meeting in Columbus and going to Blue Jackets games as first dates, to getting engaged across from Nationwide Arena after a Blue Jackets event, to tying the knot and taking wedding photos next to the cannon, some of the couple’s happiest memories involve the hometown hockey team.
The Shulmans' story began two years ago, in August 2013.
That’s when the pair met. It was towards the end of the summer, as Marsha explained, “about a month before preseason hockey started.”
“One of the things I liked about her was she liked sports, which is a huge win for a guy who can find a girl who likes sports, so we would go to games together,” Darren said. “That’s a big checkmark on your list, if we can go together and she actually likes going. It’s super cool.”
Darren, who moved to the Columbus area from Dayton, said he had always gone to games, but finally committed to a season ticket plan for the 2013-14 season.
“I never really knew any other team,” Darren said. “I always liked the Blue Jackets.”
The upcoming season, 2015-16, will be his third as a season ticket holder. When he met Marsha, he was already a season ticket holder.
“He kind of wooed me with his Blue Jackets season tickets,” Marsha joked. “He was like, ‘Hey, I know the perfect date, let’s go to a Blue Jackets game.’ I grew up loving hockey, so of course that was a good way to get me to go out with him.”
Marsha said that the two have a lot in common, but sports – specifically hockey – was one of the first things they were able to bond over.
“We both had a love of sports in general,” Marsha said. “But having major league sports local, you know, Ohio State football gets kind of old after you’ve grown up with it for so long and that’s what everybody seems to gravitate to in Columbus, but it was nice that we both had the love of other sports in common, like hockey.”
After about a year of dating, in August 2014, Marsha was invited to an off-season event at Nationwide Arena and took Darren as her date. At the event, the couple had the opportunity to hear from Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and defenseman Jack Johnson, and they also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the arena.
Unbeknownst to Marsha, Darren had something else planned for that day to make it even more special.
| Darren and Marsha Shulman on their wedding day, Mar. 13, 2015, at Nationwide Arena. |
“Little did I know, that whole week, Darren had been planning on proposing and he kind of seized the opportunity of us going to that event, afterwards to propose, which was awesome because it’s good to remember the whole day in general,” Marsha said. “We met Jack Johnson, then got into Nationwide Arena privately, which is kind of a rare experience to be able to walk through and take a look at the ice and see where our seats are and that kind of stuff.”
"I had something ready to propose to her for a long time, but I just couldn’t find the right place and time and all that,” Darren added. “It was like burning a hole in my pocket, so we went to the (Blue Jackets event) and then afterwards we walked over to (McFerson Commons).”
“I proposed to her there and, at that point, it was kind of cemented that the Blue Jackets had a special place in my heart in terms of my marriage – because she said yes. So I give Jack Johnson and Jarmo an assist.”
After setting the date for their wedding (Mar. 13, 2015), the couple realized that there was a game the same night as their big day. Since their relationship was so entwined with the team, they wanted to somehow incorporate the Blue Jackets into their wedding.
That’s when they thought of taking wedding photos inside of Nationwide Arena.
“I thought it would be really awesome if we could have our wedding pictures in Nationwide Arena during hockey season and, you know, I guess that’s the kind of thing that most people never really ask for,” Darren said. “So I talked to my ticket rep. I don’t think there was a standard thing to make it happen, but he and Kelly (Jones, the team's director of service & retention), I think moved mountains to make it happen and we’re really, really grateful for that because the pictures came out super awesome.”
March 2015 was an exceptionally special month for the Shulmans. In addition to getting hitched and taking once-in-a-lifetime wedding photos inside Nationwide Arena, the couple was also featured as season ticket holders of the month, and got an opportunity to meet Nick Foligno inside the team's dressing room.
Between going to games, getting engaged, taking wedding photos and everything else that’s happened, the Blue Jackets and hockey have been an important aspect of their relationship.
“It’s been such an integral part the entire time that we’ve known each other,” Marsha said. “We have some nerdiness things in common, too, but you know we love that we both can kind of cross over from nerdiness into the sportiness and, between all of the sporting events that we’ve gone to gone to, hockey is definitely taken part in it.”
The couple currently resides in New Albany. Darren works as a city attorney for the City of Delaware, and Marsha is the retail and restaurant general manager for the Wine Bistro in Worthington.
“One of the things I’ve always appreciated about the Blue Jackets is it’s a major sports team, they’re in the NHL, but you almost feel like you’re part of a family," Darren said. "The ticket reps are very nice, Kelly has been very helpful...so I think the Blue Jackets really do a nice job of making you feel like you’re part of something.”
“I think it just creates a hometown feel and a bond with the community, because it’s almost like starting on a level and just getting better and better and better. I think it’s going to be a spectacular year,” Marsha said. “It’ll be great to be a part of it.”
For a hockey-loving couple living in Columbus, what better way to spend their one year wedding anniversary this March than at Nationwide Arena? The two said they will be sitting in their usual seats on Mar. 13, 2016, when the Blue Jackets take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 3 p.m.
“Marsha and I will be going to that game,” Darren said. “It’ll be just like our wedding day, only we won’t be wearing tuxes and wedding dresses. We always try to make a special occasion out of the Blue Jackets games. There’s a lot of good memories coming from there.”