Blue Jackets fans made themselves heard around the hockey world this spring, from electrifying roars inside Nationwide Arena to camping out early for playoff games and becoming known as the fifth line.
Down 3-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 last week, the sold-out crowd of 19,000-plus remained standing, chanting "C-B-J" in support of their team to help them rally from an early three-goal deficit. This was exactly what the players needed, and the energy helped propel them to a memorable 4-3 victory in overtime.
During the comeback effort in the third period of Game 6, the fans almost blew the roof off of Nationwide Arena. Jack Johnson was among the many Blue Jackets players who credited their fans for keeping the energy level high in the arena and giving them an extra boost in the playoffs.
"When I first came here we envisioned the building packed and city having a buzz," Johnson said. "It's gratifying to see that sort of come true."
Not unlike the players, Blue Jackets fans have high expectations of their team and so they should, Johnson said. From where the team was two seasons ago (30th place) to where it is now following an exciting playoff run, there are plenty of reasons to be excited, but Johnson said no one is satisfied with it.
"The fans should expect a winner," he said. "I think the bar is higher in the room than I think it is anywhere, but the fans should expect us to be winners year in and year out.
"It was a great year for fans out there to watch us, watch us win some playoff games. The building was rocking, but there will be a lot more better times ahead of them."
Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson is one of the many young players who got their first taste of playoff hockey this spring, and he said one of his best memories of it will be the atmosphere in the arena and around the city - which just goes to show how hungry fans are for a consistent, winning hockey team in Columbus.
"When you get the building rocking like it was in the last month or so ... it just goes to show that when we're winning and having success that they want to be right there with us," Atkinson said. "We credit all of our success to them, because without them, we wouldn't be playing."