Every NHL arena has a goal horn to celebrate when the home team scores and Nationwide Arena is no different. Well, there is one thing that separates Nationwide Arena from other facilities and the Blue Jackets from other teams… an 1857 Napoleon replica cannon.
"The Cannon," or as it is sometimes referred to as "that (bleeping) cannon," belongs to the Blue Jackets, and it's more than just part of the team's celebrations, it's part of their identity.
"It's our own," team captain Nick Foligno said. "That's what I love about it. The cannon blast is this whole different entity and it creates such a cool feeling. I've had people come to the arena just to see the cannon. They just want to hear it go off. That's pretty awesome to hear and know you're the team that (causes) it."
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The cannon came to Nationwide Arena in 2007 when arena host Mike Todd and then Director of Game Operations Kimberly Kershaw found a cannon vendor based in Pontoon Beach, Illinois, about 15 miles northeast of St. Louis.
"We pull up to this place, it's out of the way, off a gravel road and there's an older gentleman who looked like a civil war soldier himself," recalled Todd. "He said, "yeah, I build cannons and I've got one here if you want to take a look at it."
Todd and Kershaw, with Blue Jackets management listening on the phone, took in a demonstration of the cannon fire.
"The cannon recoiled about two feet and people around were hooting and hollering," Todd said. "It was the real deal. It sounded like doom itself."
The deal was done and the cannon was soon on its way to Nationwide Arena and it's permanent home above section 111.
Jackets pre- and post-game host Bill Davidge works from a broadcast location directly adjacent to the cannon for all home games. He says there's always a line of people waiting to get their photo taken with what has become a prominent symbol of Blue Jackets hockey. He's also watched kids jump, women shriek, and men shiver the first time they hear the signature blast.
"When they introduced that a few years ago it caught a lot of people by surprise but to me, the louder the better," said Davidge. "It's a symbol of what the Jackets are all about (the team name pays homage to Ohio's contributions during the Civil War). To have a symbol is one thing, but to have the fire and noise itself is spectacular. That's what you want."
Davidge says long-time fans quickly come to love the cannon, but he's also heard his colleagues from around the hockey world talk about how they just don't like the big artillery gun. If you're not a fan of the Jackets and you don't like the cannon, well, the team is ok with that.
"Other teams hate it," Foligno said. "My brother, Marcus, who plays for Buffalo, and every guy I know in the league, just says 'that damn cannon.' It's great. It's such a good thing for our home fans and it represents holding 'our territory."
Foligno says the team lets newer Jackets experience their first cannon blast with not much warning, and he loves watching their reactions. But one of Foligno's favorite memories is of Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau hearing the cannon during the 2015 All-Star Game that was held in Columbus.
"I was standing right across from him, and he was scared," Foligno said. "I was on the bench and remembered doing the exact same thing the first time I heard it, so I had a good chuckle with him after about that."
Nowadays the cannon is everywhere you go. It is the focal point of the team's third jersey design and is represented on a shoulder patch on home and away sweaters. There's even a not so subtle reminder of the big gun outside the visitor's locker room where a wall-sized picture hangs for other teams to see.
"It's a pretty cool part of our culture and to what our team is too," Foligno said. "I love it."
Cannon Quick Facts
12 Pounder - Model 1857 Napoleon authentic reproduction
The wall at the breech is 2 1/2 inches thick and is made of heavy walled steel seamless tubing.
Bore = 4.5 inches
Length = 11 feet, 10 inches
Width = 68 inches
Weight = 1,564 lbs
The main body consists of two 4" x 9" x 8' red oak timbers.
57" wheels - white oak
The cannon was hand-made by an individual craftsman in 2005 and purchased by the Blue Jackets in 2007. The cannon fires smoke and a simultaneous pyrotechnic concussion when the team hits the ice at the start of the game, when the Blue Jackets score and at the end of the game when the Jackets win.