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For Blue Jackets fans, it's time to believe

This is the team fans in Columbus have been waiting for

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

It's time … to believe. 

Who knows how many of the fans who jammed into Nationwide Arena for the first-ever Blue Jackets game Oct. 7, 2000, were back in the downtown venue on Tuesday as Columbus finished off the first playoff series win in franchise history. 

But for those in Columbus who have been waiting for the nearly 20 years from the first puck drop to the final cannon blast in the 7-3 win over Tampa Bay in Game 4, it was in many ways the culmination of a journey both rewarding and frustrating. 

So go wild, go crazy, go all-in, just like the team did in February when it made it clear it wanted to make noise this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You've earned it, and you can drop your guard and revel in the fun of being part of sport's most intense, exhausting and pulsating tournament.  

PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Your one-stop location for news, notes, videos, and more

Previous visits have been too short, we know, and gone with the first-round exits were the chances for Columbus to finally go out of its collective gourd for this. If you were cautious, worried that the same heartbreak was waiting right around the corner, this is your chance to leave those inhibitions behind. And if you're newly on board, welcome to the journey.  

Video: It was a historic night at Nationwide Arena

Who knows what will follow? The Blue Jackets will play good teams, and things probably won't come as easily as the 4-0 sweep in the first round vs. Tampa Bay when Columbus outscored its foe 19-8. But this is a team that has captured hearts, and there's no reason to hold back now. 

Even someone as focused on his team as much as head coach John Tortorella understands the importance of what's happening in the capital city. Upon his arrival in 2015, Tortorella was able to sense what was evident to those who have been around Columbus since the franchise's inception: a loyal, intense fan base was there, just waiting for a reason to explode.  

That powderkeg now has been lit, and the explosion sounded a lot like 19,000-plus fans roaring like a collective jet engine during Games 3 and 4.  

"I think it's great for the fans," Tortorella said. "I think I've been very honest about that. We're hoping to keep on progressing here to make this into a full-fledged hockey town. I think our fans have been tremendous since I've been here, tremendously loyal where we have sucked in some games in certain situations that they wanted to get behind us, and we have laid an egg a number of times.  

"I'm focused on the team and what's going on on the ice, but we want this to grow. The more opportunities we have to play in these types of games and find a way to win, that's a good thing." 

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: We ������ the #5thLine!

The scenes at the downtown arena earlier this week were what John H. McConnell had in mind when he made sure Columbus' chance at a franchise in one of the four major sports didn't pass it by. McConnell was a visionary at the time the city was ripe for a vision, and he saw in the mid-1990s the Columbus would become and has become -- the heartbeat of the state, a growing, thriving city with a growing, thriving national reputation. 

A city like that would need major league sports, and McConnell and other city leaders made it happen. Since then, the team and the city have been tied together in one of the great urban success stories of the last 20 years. Nationwide Arena reimagined a part of downtown that needed it, and served as the catalyst for almost every revitalization product that followed. Can you imagine the Short North's continued development or the downtown housing revitalization taking place without the downtown arena? Simply put, Columbus in 2019 isn't Columbus without the Blue Jackets. 

The only thing missing since then? A team to take the more than 2 million residents of Columbus on a wild ride. And what could be wilder than sweeping the Presidents' Trophy winners, a Tampa Bay team that was being talked about as one of the best in NHL history, right out of the first round of the playoffs? 

It opens up the dream of what might be possible, and this year's playoff slogan has proved to be the perfect one.  

It's time to show what a hockey town Columbus has become. 

It's time to believe that anything is possible. 

Simply put, it's time. 

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