Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Columbus. This is obviously an exciting moment for the Blue Jackets and the city of Columbus as well as the National Hockey League. We are thrilled to be here at Nationwide Arena, delighted to have All-Star Weekend back in the mix as a major event, and truly excited that Columbus is getting a chance to show the NHL family and the world all it has to offer. I’m happy for and grateful to John P. McConnell, Mike Priest, John Davidson, and the entire Blue Jackets organization. They have worked extraordinarily hard, first to secure All-Star Weekend and then to present everything that you’re all seeing as we’re here together, and this is great for Blue Jackets fans and for the city of Columbus.
Their objective from the outset has been to make this one of the truly memorable All-Star celebrations in history, and from the appearance of things, whether it was the 5K run this morning or the Snow Slide or the rink at All-Star Winter Park or the Fan Fest at the convention center, they seem to be well on their way to achieving that objective.
The Blue Jackets have always been, like so many of our teams, committed to community endeavors and our joint legacy project, the hockey-themed treehouse, that we dedicated yesterday at Ronald McDonald House here in Columbus is yet another example of devotion to this great city.
I also want to express the NHL’s appreciation to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission and Experience Columbus for going the extra mile for making everyone, all of us, feel so welcome. Columbus was a great host for the draft in 2007 and it’s showing once again that it is terrific at hosting high-visibility events.
I read one report that suggested that this weekend is expected to generate some $12 million in visitor spending, and I know the NHL alone has booked 8,000 room nights. But numbers aside, we’re proud to have joined with the city, to have found so many points of connection with All-Star events so you can feel a part of the celebration even if you don’t have a ticket to the Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition or to the Honda NHL All-Star Game itself.
I remember coming here a number of years ago, even before Nationwide Arena was under construction. We went up to the top of the Nationwide building and had a great view of the Union Station Arch because that was pretty much all there was to see. And now to see this arena district and the convention center and all the activities downtown, I think it’s safe to say the John H. McConnell, who spearheaded the effort to bring the NHL to Columbus, would have every right to be overjoyed by what has transpired, inspired by the Blue Jackets’ experience and presence here, what has transformed Columbus, and made this city one of increasing prominence and an area that is a matter of pride and actually great activity for this community.
John H. McConnell is in our thoughts today. His legacy is certainly preserved and forwarded by John P. McConnell, his son. Thank you, J. P., and the Blue Jackets.