The lights are out at the arena, fans are watching the Columbus Blue Jackets leave the locker room on the video board, spotlights are shining around the arena and the team's drum cadence is blaring over the speakers. The Jackets take the ice as the crowd roars in approval. Soon after the puck drops and sometime in the first period, the Jackets take the early lead on a goal by Captain Rick Nash
. The cannon is fired as the crowd goes wild.
Every night when fans enter Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets staff is working to put on a quality show. From the minute the doors open until the last fan leaves, NHL games are scripted to provide entertainment and enjoyment to those in attendance. Recently, the staff that works tirelessly to provide an entertaining and seamless production shared honors for the 2008 Best Team Operations award given out by GameOps.com.
"We were very pleased to learn about the award," said Kimberly Kershaw, Director of Event Presentation/Production for the Blue Jackets. "GameOps.com is used by many professionals around the NHL and other major and minor leagues. To see the Blue Jackets being recognized by our peers as an industry leader is good for the franchise and very important to us."
Each game starts with the Time Warner Cable Pre-Game Show. The show features public address announcer Greg Murray and in-arena host Mike Todd, along with radio broadcasters George Matthews and Bill Davidge who run through the game in the style of ESPN's PTI. Throughout the game the event presentation team provides different types of entertainment like on-ice contests, video board features and interactive promotions during TV time-outs and other stoppages of play. The game concludes with the announcement of the three stars and highlights from the game as fans start to exit.
"We have a script that we format to basically outline everything that will happen from the time doors open until the end of the game," said Kershaw. "The music, the promotion teams, the contests, the features, pretty much everything from A to Z is formatted in advance. Once the game starts, it will dictate to some degree what will happen or what won't happen, but for the most part it's all laid out in advance."
The goal of the game operations crew is to continuously come up with different types of ideas to keep the content fresh and exciting for the fans. With that in mind there are a couple of different openings, such as a parody of the Saturday Night Live intro for Saturday night contests, a rotation of contests held during the intermission and special themed style videos during the game when teams like Nashville or New York come into town.
"We brainstorm as a staff and consider what our market and fans would prefer in terms of entertainment style here in Columbus," said Kershaw. "We meet a lot with our corporate partners to determine what their goals are and what they are trying to achieve. We work with other teams to share ideas and we use industry sources such as GameOps.com to ensure that game nights are fun and exciting for our fans."
Kershaw along with Event Presentation Manager, Lynn Truitt, oversee the production each game. It takes a crew of approximately 50 to 60 people to put on the show. The production involves people behind the scenes, such as audio/video crew, spotlight, video board and cannon operators to some of the more visible members like the Pepsi Power Patrol, Greg Murray, Mike Todd and organist Bob Dawson.
The hard work by the game operations staff has paid off this year, as the Blue Jackets shared the honor of being awarded 2008 Best Team Operations according to GameOps.com with the Fresno Grizzlies. According to GameOps.com, "the award is given to a team that is doing the best job in game operations and game presentation." The panel of judges consider creativity, presentation, attention to detail and several other categories in making the determination. GameOps.com said, "Our panel also repeatedly came back with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a team who does everything well and sets a standard for excellence throughout their game presentation."