On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets saluted the men and women who are currently serving or have previously served the U.S. during Military Appreciation Night.
Before the Jackets faced off against the Vancouver Canucks at Nationwide Arena, the players took the ice for warm-ups in special camouflage jerseys and sported American flag stickers on the back of their helmets. The jerseys were auctioned off by the Blue Jackets Foundation.
One current Blue Jackets player, Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad, has become known for his admiration of the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen.
“It’s exciting,” Saad said. “It’s more than just a hockey game (on Military Appreciation night). We know that. Anytime we can try to help give back, really it’s good to give appreciation. I look up to them and I’m sure a lot of the guys in the room do, too.”
During Saad’s day with the Stanley Cup this summer, the 22-year-old took it to the 911th Airlift Wing in the greater Pittsburgh area.
“I really just look up to those guys and the things they do for our country and to keep us safe," Saad said. "I know a lot of them are big sports fans as well, so it’s something I thought of when I won. It’s something I can do to give back and let them come out with their families and kids and whoever to come see it.”
Saad is one of six players on the Blue Jackets roster born in the U.S. The other being Cam Atkinson (Riverside, Conn.), Jared Boll (Charlotte, N.C.), Brandon Dubinsky (Anchorage, Alaska), Nick Foligno (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Jack Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.).
“I think that maybe even having just one night isn’t enough,” Johnson said of the night. “I mean, they’re the reason why we’re able to rest our head on our pillow at peace at night. Having a night like this is great, but we should be thanking them every night for what they do and to give us a chance to live and work in the greatest country in the world.”
In addition to the jersey auction, a special thank you video featuring players, head coach John Tortorella and majority owner John P. McConnell was played on the board prior to the game and all of the in-game promotions featured veterans or current military members as contestants.
In addition to Military Appreciation Night, other Blue Jackets military programs include recognizing a current or former service member during the in-game Military Honoree feature during each home game, an active military ticket offer during the regular season, military group outings and more.
Saad said that despite being focused on the game, he and the other players do take note of the military spotlight that the organization does during each home game.
“We’re focused on the game, but at the same time it’s something we notice and I think it’s great,” Saad said.
Fans sported their best red, white and blue and camouflage, and joined in on the conversation thanking their favorite military personnel by tagging their tweets #CBJUSA.
“I think it’s a great thing for us,” Johnson added. “It also helps to keep things in perspective. I know a lot of kids and a lot of people look up to us and idolize us as hockey players and think of us as heroes…but those people are the real heroes and I heard someone say once, and I’ll never forget it, that real heroes wear camouflage and it couldn’t be truer.”