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Fan group unite, ignite Blue Jackets online community

by Brad Friedman / Columbus Blue Jackets

In the following slide show, you will find profiles of seven different groups and blogs whose operators spend countless hours delivering content to fans in an engaging manner. From articles to funny tweets, these seven groups bring it all together into one community of CBJ fan sites.

Here lies our disclaimer: There are so many fan sites stock piled into this presentation that it would be impossible for us to profile everybody. It does not mean that the work of those blogs and social media accounts has gone unnoticed and unappreciated. Every account deserves recognition and applause.

Anyway, here are just a few groups that exemplify what it means to be a fan of hockey and the Blue Jackets.

The CBJ Artillery (@TheCBJArtillery)

As it states in its Twitter bio, the CBJ Artillery is the social media battle ground for the fifth line. A small group of diehard CBJ fans fire off in-game updates, CBJ news and are always eager to interact with any fan of the Jackets.

For Artillery founder Jordan Mills, the impromptu creation of the Twitter account was not only a way for him to tweet about his favorite team, but a way to introduce a laid-back fan account whose sole intent is to have fun.

“We’re just here watching hockey,” Mills said. “We’re not trying to change the world.”

Mills didn’t set out to change the world, but he and TJ Nocar of Blue Jackets Nation did shake up the land of the Blue Jackets with five simple words late in the season: “We Are The 5th Line.”

After a heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Chicago on April 4, the fight for the final two wild card spots heated up in the Eastern Conference. Mills decided that the Jackets deserved a rally cry that would push them to the playoffs.

Two days later, the Artillery unveiled the hashtag “We Are The Fifth Line” along with a logo that could be used as a Twitter avatar. Within a few hours of its official introduction, #WeAretheFifthLine was trending in Columbus with no assistance from the official Blue Jackets Twitter account.

“That’s when the Blue Jackets said, ‘Wow, this is something special,’” Mills said. “When you roll something out on social media, you don’t know what success it’s going to take.”

Successful it was. Prior to every home playoff game, the three-story-tall “We Are The Fifth Line” banner raised in the corner of the arena accompanied by a deafening roar from the 19,000-plus in attendance.

Mills choked up when the banner first rose to the ceiling and admitted that the magnitude of that moment has yet to set in.

“For the artillery to get this movement started and to see that banner go up, it was something special,” Mills said.

The motto of the fifth line did not disappear with Columbus’ exit from the playoffs, bur rather, it will grow even more rolling into the 2014-15 season.

“The fifth line is going to be something that is a staple in the organization for years to come,” Mills said confidently. “It’s a social connection point for fans to come be a part of.”

Blue Jackets Nation (@CBJ_Nation)

Working hand-in-hand with the CBJ Artillery, Blue Jackets Nation seeks to establish a central hub where fans are able to talk about the Blue Jackets.

Former U.S Marine TJ Nocar, a student at the Ohio State University, has a close friendship with the operators of the CBJ Artillery and described his account as the “Artillery Jr.” Don’t let the “junior” title fool you; some of Nocar’s ideas have caught on in a big way.

The “We are the fifth line” motto first began as a thought floating around Nocar’s mind the night before Columbus’ April 4 matchup with Chicago. The Artillery didn’t launch the hashtag until after the matchup, but when they did, it superseded any expectations Nocar placed on the motto.

“We only expected a handful of people to use it, like our game day hashtags,” Nocar said. “It kind of took on its own life and ran away.”

One large banner later and Nocar was choked up by what he had helped to create.

“It was one of those moments when you’re in shock, especially with everybody screaming,” Nocar said. “Everything for a phrase you came up with, getting raised up and everybody is taking part in it now.”

Nocar also noted that support for the “fifth line” came from far and wide, including from on-duty U.S members serving in Afghanistan.

Troops and civilians alike watched the Blue Jackets march to the playoffs and Nocar got a taste of what it’s like to be the operator of a fan account that supports a post-season-bound club.

“It seemed like you could tweet a picture of a stick figure person and put ‘Go Blue Jackets’ and people were so enthused about the Jackets making the playoffs that they would just blow up on Twitter,” Nocar said.

Earning followers from Blue Jackets fans when your Twitter handle is “CBJ_Nation” is justifiable, but Nocar prides his account with attracting attention from fan bases all over the league.

“I get to hear and echo what other teams are saying about us to our fans,” Nocar said. “It’s also fun when we play opposing teams as well because it gives me somebody to jab back and forth with.”

Jabbing was in full effect during the first round against Pittsburgh, but Nocar had a little help from his friends. The operators of Flyers Nation, who share as much resentment towards the Pittsburgh Penguins as many Jackets fans have, along with a host of Philadelphia fans egged on Nocar as he took shots at the division winners.

As the saying goes: there is strength in numbers.

Union & Blue (@UnionandBlue)

News, opinions and feature articles, the Union and Blue strives to be the best Blue Jackets blog on the Internet.

Despite only maintaining a staff of six to eight staff writers, Editor Julia Lawrence places an emphasis on a consistent flow of content and constant interaction with fans of all levels of hockey know-how.

As Columbus slowly transitions into a town that admires the Jackets as much as it loves the Buckeyes, Lawrence noted that seeing that fan base grow was both impressive and fun.

“One of my favorite tweets that I read during this whole things was, ‘don’t alienate the bandwagon fans: welcome them,’” Lawrence said. “It was the first time we had heard of people being bandwagon fans for the Jackets.”

As Columbus transitioned into a playoff-caliber club, Lawrence bragged that it was an exciting time to be the editor of a Blue Jackets blog as her newsfeed filled with tweets of elated fans.

In what she said was her favorite aritcle of the year, Lawrence addressed the very concept of Columbus transitioning into a “hockey town.”

She wrote, “Many, probably most people in Central Ohio, grew up watching OSU football. Their parents and even their grandparents watched it, and even students were there. The Jackets didn’t have that. But times are changing. The Jackets are growing and so are there fans.”

The fan base is growing and the Union & Blue is following suit. Lawrence and her staff are looking to develop their blog and model after “Sabre Noise,” the Buffalo Sabres blog associated with Sports Illustrated Fansided Network, the same network in which Union & Blue is associated.

Lawrence joked that while the Sabres were at the bottom of the standings last season, the blog is the cream of the crop.

The University of Kentucky student insisted that the blog is always looking for more writers to aide them in its pursuit to be the best fan-run blog.

“The blog is by the fans or for the fans,” Lawrence said.

CBJ Prospects (@CBJPropsects)

Approximately four years ago, Jas Griffin, of Oregon, Ohio, served as a writer for a hockey blog. Unhappy with the amount of draft and recruiting coverage the blog put out, he set out to create his own account that would keep tabs on all of Columbus’ top prospects.

“The hamster wheel just kept on going,” Griffin said as the blog continued to grow. “It’s purely prospects.”

Over 44-thousand tweets later, CBJ prospects has evolved into one of the top sources for tracking the junior careers of potential future Blue Jackets. Griffin retweets articles, scouting profiles and dishes out his own opinions on the next crop of NHL stars.

With a seemingly endless amount of junior and semi-professional hockey leagues around the world from where the NHL draws its talent, maintain knowledge about every prospect can be a daunting task. Keeping fans informed, along with interacting with them directly, is a continuous process that requires many hours of work per week.

Those hours of research come in handy when a particular prospect, whom Griffin had followed all throughout juniors, eventually hears his name called by the Blue Jackets on draft day. Griffin recalls CBJ center Ryan Johansen being the first prospect on whom he had kept tabs.

In his third year in Columbus, Johansen busted onto the scene with 33 goals and 30 assists, not missing a single game in the process. Like many other hockey fans, Griffin was shocked by the sudden rise of productivity out of a player who had yet to register more than 21 points in a season.

“I thought he would be good, but I didn’t think that he would have this kind of breakout season,” Griffin said.

As draft day looms and prospects ready themselves for the jump to the next level, Griffin suggested that the Jackets bolster their crop of defensemen between the Columbus and Springfield squads. In addition, extra size at the wing positions are also a needed upgrade, according to Griffin.

Upon the conclusion of the draft and free agency, many fans will voice their opinions about their team’s selections and ponder how the new players will make an impact come fall/ For Griffi, it’s on to breaking down the next group of professional prospects.

Arch City Army (@ArchCityArmy)

For those of you who attended a Blue Jackets game, if you noticed a wild group of fans in section 227, you feasted your eyes on members of the Arch City Army.

The membership-based support group has taken on the mission of making Nationwide Arena an impenetrable fortress and cheering on the Blue Jackets, win or lose. While the central locale for the club is the 227, Arch City members can be found at every level of Nationwide.

“We try to make opposing fans and teams hate coming here,” Zach Prater said, a member of the Arch City Army leadership group. “We’re just going to rag on them and have as much fun as possible….We never stop supporting this team.”

A 20-dollar payment can earn one membership in the group, which includes an “Arch City” scarf, discounts on tickets and a spot during off-season kayaking trips, cookouts and other social gatherings. Arch City currently has approximately 700 members and that number is expected to rise after the draft and at the beginning of the season.

Times were good for the Army and the folks in section 227 during Columbus’ playoff run. During game four, Brandon Dubinsky’s game-tying goal caused not only adults to tackle each other in public, but to call on supernatural powers to seal the deal.

“We literately had a prayer circle. We got together, held hands and prayed to the hockey Gods,” Prater said.

It’s easy to be a fan during an exciting time like that, but Prater placed just as much of an emphasis on supporting the Jackets when they’re down, which has been the case for much of the franchise’s existence.

“This is our home town,” Prater said emphatically. “This is the team that you’re supposed to support.”

Cheering for the Jackets during times of losing can be a difficult task, but seeing the team grow before his eyes was something special for Prater.

“It’s amazing to see the team go from being one of the worst in the league to having teams be scared to play us, especially in our own arena,” Prater said. “September can’t get here quickly enough.”

Nick Biss BShockey.com

Nick Biss (@nickjbiss) is a Columbus Blue Jackets fan living in Western Pennsylvania. Yes, a fifth liner in Penguin country.

The Pennsylvania native grew up a supporter of the Pens, but he converted his allegiance to the CBJ around the same time Columbus made its initial playoff push a few years ago.

Sound like a bandwagon fan? Think again. Biss started up BShockey.com in March after writing for Rubber Duck Hockey. In short, a look at Biss’s work and it’s easy to tell that the man knows his stuff about the Jackets.

Statistical analysis and feature stories cover the front page of BShockey.com as Biss yearns to make a splash in the blogging community.

“I wanted the chance to be able to grow my own fan base, rather than relying on other websites,” Biss said. “I wanted to add another voice to the conversation.”

Biss wanted to join in on the CBJ conversation because he felt that one doesn’t have to dig deeply to find passionate teams who know a lot about their favorite hockey club. With serving such a knowledgeable fan base, Biss strives to deliver fact-based, no nonsense information to his readers.

“There are a lot of blogs that focus on the negatives and aren’t realistic,” Biss said. “We want to give stats-based information with no knee-jerk reaction.”

The staff of BShockey.com treated Columbus’ playoff run as a golden opportunity to showcase the new blog.

“It gave us a good chance to show what kind of content we can produce when more traffic is going towards blogs,” Biss said.

It was not only an opportunity to promote written content, but to draw attention to the newly dubbed sub-reddit r/cbjhockeygifs. On said page, gifs of the biggest goals, bone crunching hits and controversial penalties are organized by game, period and time.

Followers can expect not only more gifs, but in-depth statistical analysis of every game, goal, scoring chance and player performance in the 2014-15 season.

Matt Souva (inwordsandphrases.wordpress.com)

This one is for all of you number-lovers out there. Chemical engineering student Matt Souva (@zekebud) has combined his love for numbers and algorithms with his love for hockey.

His love for the Blue Jackets began when Grant Clistome, with whom he attended Clarkson College, was selected by the Blue Jackets in the 2004 entry draft. Souva “band-wagoned” during Columbus’ first trip to the playoffs and has been a Jackets fan ever since.

Souva uses his blog as an outlet to get away from the daily grind of being a chemical engineering student.

“Researching lab-like stuff is interesting, but it’s nice to have an escape every once in a while,” Souva said.

Since he can never escape using numbers, Souva uses advanced stats to determine whetheror not his observations about the team are valid. He goes beyond the final box score to tell the real story of a game or playoff series.

Taking a look at the Jackets, Souva sees Ryan Johansen as one of the club’s greatest strengths. Yes, just about every Blue Jackets fan knows that Johansen had a great year, but Souva was most impressed by his performance against top-tier competition. Johansen took on elite centers like Sdiney Crosby and Claude Giroux on a consistent basis and still managed to produce points and make the most of his time on the ice.

Souva cited depth at the defenseman position as an area of need, but applauded the overall performance of Ryan Murray and James Wisniewski. A good defenseman, according to Souva, is one that is able to move the puck up ice and complete outlet passes efficiently.

While blocking shots in the defensive zone is an important duty for defensemen, Souva warned against spending too much time guarding the cage.

“If you’re stuck in your own end, you’re just hemorrhaging shots against (your goaltender,)” Souva said. “You’re just waiting until the dice roll hits and your goalie gives up one.”

The blogger was also quick to praise Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, saying that it is reasonable to expect above-average performances from Bob based on his overall even-strength save percentage and total shots faced.

Unless one can watch every single game every night, Souva insisted that in-depth stats are the best way to rationalize a team’s performance. Souva felt as if the 2012-13 squad relied too much on a hot goaltender, causing pessimism in his posts.

On the contrary, a better overall performance from the team not only resulted is a positive posts from “In Words and Phrases,” but also resulted in a bright forecast for the 2014-15 season.

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