Before Nick Foligno, Seth Jones or Cam Atkinson gets to take to the Nationwide Arena ice this season, Obadiah Larocque had the run of the place.
The 2-year-old joined his parents, Justin and Alley Larocque of Springfield, on the ice along with nine other season ticket holders and their guests as the Blue Jackets invited fans to help paint the ice Friday as its being installed at Nationwide Arena.
Guests were given a paintbrush stamped with "I painted the NWA ice" and were able to paint the blue of the goal creases and the blue lines as part of the new ticket holder perk.
Obadiah has some experience doodling at home but instead spent his Friday exploring the floor of Nationwide while Justin and Alley did their part to stay between the lines while making the blue lines blue.
Not that the mission was 100 percent accomplished.
"It's surreal," Justin said of the experience. "And it's cool because we made a little mistake here and there, and I'll be able to point out exactly where I painted.
"It's really cool to be part of this. It's a great memory to have."
With the blue paint applied to the Blue Jackets' playing surface, the season ticket holders were able to pose for a photo at center ice and take home their souvenir brushes, all part of the efforts to get the arena ready for the first skate.
A crew of around 10 workers including Blue Jackets ice technician Ian Huffman started around 7 a.m. this morning, covering the cement floor with 200 gallons of white paint. Then a layer of water just one-eighth of an inch thick was applied to the 16-degree floor before the markings -- lines, faceoff circles and logos -- were applied.
These days, most markings -- the CBJ logo, for example, or the red line featuring 114 stars that runs the length of center ice -- are placed via what are essentially large decals, but the goal creases, blue lines, goal lines, faceoff circles and faceoff dots are still done the old-fashioned way.
Once the paint and decals are set, which should happen by early this afternoon, the crew will spend the rest of the weekend applying water until the ice is at game thickness -- about one and a quarter inches.
Huffman pointed out just how important precision is these days in an era of HD cameras and down-to-a-fraction-of-an-inch replays, and by the time it's done, the ice at Nationwide will be picture perfect as it always is.
"It's exciting," Huffman said. "It's the end of summer but it's the start of hockey, so it's a good time."