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Recruiting events give fans unique opportunity

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Offseason momentum for the Blue Jackets has been kind of like a snowball rolling downhill, and that’s a good thing for the organization and its fans.

The team’s white-hot finish to the NHL regular season, a Vezina Trophy win and subsequent contract extension for star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, three first-round draft picks and a seven-year pact with sought-after free agent Nathan Horton have spearheaded a surge in season-ticket sales.

There’s a buzz around the Blue Jackets, and as a result, interest in season ticket packages continues to increase.

The Blue Jackets have invited potential “new recruits” to Nationwide Arena for exclusive receptions, tours of the locker room and surrounding facilities, as well as meet-and-greets with Blue Jackets players and management personalities.

This past week, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and forward Ryan Johansen took part in a special recruiting event in the Founder’s Club at Nationwide Arena. Kekalainen and Johansen mingled with fans prior to the official start of the program, and then Kekalainen participated in a Q-and-A session hosted by blue Jackets broadcaster Bob McElligott.

No question was off-limits, either. Kekalainen talked in-depth about the Blue Jackets’ draft, if he has plans to add more players via free agency or trades, and the future of several players in the organization.

It was a rewarding experience for fans to not only get face time with the GM, but to gain insight to the future of the team not just this season, but beyond. Before the end of the evening, a number of them were new season ticket holders.

“As you can see, we were able to be one-on-one with these guys,” said Chuck Hilling, a new season ticket holder who attended this week’s event. “I interviewed Jarmo myself and it was a blast. We definitely appreciated the opportunity.

“It meant a great deal to us, the personal aspect as far just being able to walk right up to Jarmo and these guys and be able to talk to them and to know they seem like they care about what they’re saying to us when they reply to our questions. It meant a lot to us and definitely played into it.”

Hilling, a big hockey fan who was one of the standing-room only crowd of 19,002 on hand for the thrilling season finale at Nationwide Arena, purchased two season tickets in large part because he wanted to be part of the team’s bright future.

Like many fans, that 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators is a lasting memory – but Hilling signed up for bigger and better moments, as well.

“We were here for the last game (of last season) and we were three rows behind the bench and we were excited then and we just couldn’t wait to get the season started,” Hilling said. “We couldn’t be more happy to just be a part of everything and hopefully move on to bigger and better plans down the road.”


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