A stroll by the corner of McConnell and Nationwide and one can see some of the most dedicated Blue Jackets fans taking cover from a solid downpour.
The plaza-dwellers come from all walks of life: young, old, and students. With finals week on the horizon, college-aged fans brought their textbooks and notebooks along with blankets, snacks, chairs and other “waiting-in-line” essentials.
Huntington Green Seats to tonight’s game six tilt against Pittsburgh are on the line and hesitating to jump in line may cost one the chance to join the fifth line in the arena.
Grant Flood, 28, of Upper Arlington wanted to ensure that he snagged the very first ticket. He called off of work and was the first one to set up camp in front of the ticket office at 4:30 Sunday afternoon.
Yes, you read that correctly. By the time the puck drops at 7 pm, Flood will have spent nearly 27 consecutive hours at Nationwide Arena.
Flood was accompanied by his younger brother Connor, 18, who joined him in line around eight o’clock last night. Outside of him, the elder Flood has become very close to the hundreds who have temporarily put life on hold to snag a ticket.
“We didn’t know each other coming in, but I’m pretty sure that we are going to leave this as friends,” Flood said.
Flood was also the first in line for game four seats.
Securing Stanley Cup Playoff tickets can be difficult, but this is a whole different level.
“These fans are the die-hards who may not be able to afford the hundred-dollar lower-bowl tickets, but still have the same passion for the team,” Flood said.
Charles Prior, 21, of Hilliard, arrived in the arena district around eight o’clock as well. The Ohio State University student was fortunate enough to catch a break in his final exam schedule to hop in line.
Prior noted that the early birds received several confused look from pedestrians throughout the evening and early morning, but he insisted that it was well worth sleeping in, what he admitted, was the strangest place in which he had ever slept.
The man with the fifth spot in line attended his first Blue Jackets game in October of their inaugural season. Prior was ecstatic to see the fan support for the club during its playoff run and insisted that he would do the wait all over again should the Jackets advance to the second round.
“It’s really cool to see this whole community rally around this team,” Prior said. “(Columbus) has been waiting for something to root on for a long time and this team has given its heart and passion. It’s really something we can really around.”
For those who arrived on Sunday, their patience was rewarded long before the ticket office lifted its gates.
At approximately 10 pm last night, Columbus winger Cam Atkinson made his way to the box office to greet the patient fans. Atkinson posed for some pictures, gave out two autographed sticks, but what came next made Atkinson the favorite player of nine lucky fans.
Atkinson strolled over the ATM, withdrew approximately 400 dollars of his own money and gave the money to the fans for tickets and Tim Horton’s snacks.
“It’s the right thing to do, really,” Atkinson said. “They support us all year long and the fact that they were camping out last night, supporting us, I felt like it was my duty to stop by and at least say thank you.”
One thing led to another and Atkinson gave a lot more than his appreciation. The 24-year old noted that he is glad that his club is able to provide the fans with a winning team.
“Tonight, we’re going to come out with a lot of energy and play the way we know we’re capable of,” Atkinson said.
Flood, needless to say, was elated.
“I wasn’t even expecting to have company, let alone Cam Atkinson,” Flood said.
The wait presses on for the plaza-dwellers and the rest of the fifth line. Puck drop is only a fewer hours away.