Blue Jackets fans packed Nationwide Arena on Friday night for the Columbus Blue Jackets’ FanFest event to meet their favorite players and prepare for the Jackets’ 14th NHL season.
Over 4,000 fans were in attendance for street hockey, open skating at the OhioHealth Ice Haus, games and hockey skills stations, and autographs from their favorite players.
“I was excited to bring my son and the rest of my family and see their reactions to the players,” said Chris Watts of Pickerington, Ohio. “It’s a great family atmosphere.”
Fans lined up to meet stars like Sergei Bobrovsky, Cam Atkinson, and Boone Jenner, the lines wrapping half way around the arena. Lines began to form thirty mintues before the players were even scheduled to appear. Others toured the Jackets’ locker room with Scott Hartnell, ripped slap shots with Tim Erixon, and sat behind the desk with FOX Sports Ohio play-by-play announcer Jeff Rimer.
There was also plenty to do for younger Jackets fans. Katie Harris of Lewis Center found plenty to do with her daughters, Jenna and Bella.
“I think they’re most excited about the bounce house," Harris said. "And we’ve done the locker room tour, we got to see Stinger and go into his house, and we got to go down and check out the ice.”
Fans enjoyed the fun, but many were also ready to drop the puck on the regular season. Dave Owen, a second-year season ticket holder from Athens, Ohio, notices the growing fan excitement in Columbus.
“There are a lot more people here than last year,” he said, recognizing a crowd twice the size of last year’s FanFest. “We tried to buy more tickets for opening night and there was one here, one there. You know there’s a lot more people excited about the Blue Jackets and coming out to the games.”
Some fans, like Allen Smith from Grove City, were looking to buy tickets and used the event to scout out seat locations around the arena.
“Having to search for seats is a good thing because it means the team is coming around and the city is coming to support what’s going on here," Smith said.
Allen was also excited about the upcoming NHL All Star Game in Columbus, as were many of the fans lined up at the evening’s All Star information station.
“It’s going to be huge for the city and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Allen. “It finally shows how far we’ve come as an NHL franchise and we’ve got the strong fan base to support it.”
That fan base was out in full force to kick off the 2014-15 season -- Blue Jackets training camp begins in less than a week!