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Rick Nash retires as a Blue Jackets legend

Forward still owns Columbus records for games, goals and points

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

He wore No. 61, but for all intents and purposes, Rick Nash should have worn No. 1 for the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

After being the franchise's first-ever No. 1 overall pick, he still sits No. 1 in games played, No. 1 in goals, No. 1 in assists, and No. 1 in points. Heck, he even scored the No. 1 highlight-reel goal in franchise history. 

Nash was the first bona fide professional star in a city that had never had one before. He came in like a Rocket - the Richard trophy he won in his second season when he tied for the league lead with 41 goals, still a Jackets' single-season record - and served as the face of the franchise for all nine seasons he was here. 

"I would say he put Columbus on the map for hockey," said current CBJ forward Cam Atkinson, who arrived with the Blue Jackets when Nash was the captain. "He's had an unbelievable career and he did a lot for this franchise."

Nash would go on to play for the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, but it feels like he'll forever be a Columbus Blue Jacket. 

READ MORE: Former captain drops the puck in Nationwide Arena

Nash announced his retirement Friday after 15 seasons in the NHL. For most, his time as a Blue Jacket will be most remembered. He made five All-Star appearances with the franchise and helped the team to the playoffs for the first time during the 2008-09 season, even scoring the goal that helped cement the first-ever playoff berth. 

Fox Sports Ohio broadcaster Bill Davidge, who was the team's radio analyst during Nash's tenure, still considers Nash a friend and marvels at how he filled the shoes expected of him when he was drafted.

"What can you say?" Davidge said. "He comes into a situation where he had to be a star, and he was a star. He had that inner desire. You could tell he was a scorer and you could tell he was a hockey player. You have guys who can skate and everything else, but they lack something. Rick had the greatest hands, he had the greatest compete, he had the size. He could be any player you wanted him to be."

A look back at some of the most memorable moments in Nash's Blue Jackets' career. 

  • Nash was selected No. 1 overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2002 entry draft, as Columbus moved up from No. 3 to the top pick to take the London Knights star. He had just completed a season in which he had 72 points in 54 games for London and represented Team Canada at the World Juniors. 
  • Nash made his debut for the club at 18 years old on Oct. 10, 2002, in the season opener vs. Chicago and thrilled the Nationwide Arena crowd when he scored his first goal. He'd go on to finish his debut season with 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points in 74 games and finished third in the Calder Trophy voting behind St. Louis defenseman Barrett Jackman and Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg. 
  • In 2003-04, Nash made it clear to the rest of the league he was a forced to be reckoned with when at 19 years old, he tied for winning the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer with Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk. An NHL-best 19 of his goals were power-play goals, and he added 16 assists to finish with 57 points. 
  • On Jan. 17, 2008, he scored what would become known as "The Goal" for a Blue Jackets team fighting for its first-ever playoff bid. In a game at Arizona, the teams were tied at 3 in the final minute when Nash blocked a shot, sped ahead, took an outlet pass and faced two defenders alone. He dangled around one, hesitated, sped by the other, made one more toe-drag to get to the front of the net, avoided the goalie's poke-check, then kicked the puck to his stick and fired into an open net.  
  • On March 12, 2008, Nash received one of hockey's ultimate compliments when he was named the Blue Jackets team captain at age 23. He became just the fifth captain in team history. 
  • In 2008-09, Nash had perhaps his best season while leading the Blue Jackets to the franchise's first playoff appearance. He reached the 40-goal plateau for the second time and added 39 assists for 79 points in 78 games as the Blue Jackets finished 41-31-10 and clinched a playoff berth. His tying goal late in a game at Chicago allowed the CBJ to clinch the playoff bid in a game later won in a shootout by Fedor Tyutin. 
  • In 2011, Nash made his fifth and final All-Star appearance as a Blue Jacket. 
  • Finally, after a 2011-12 season in which Nash had 30 goals for the fifth straight season, Nash was traded to the Rangers in the offseason. The return brought a core of players who have helped the team make the playoffs three of the past five seasons. 

He still leads the franchise in games played (674), goals (289), assists (258) and points (547). 

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