“Dude…you just scored on Sergei Bobrovsky!”
Context is always important, but in this instance, it’s essential: one radiantly-smiling young Blue Jackets fan was literally bouncing around after playing air hockey with the Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, and even more so that he scored a goal on him (a rarity, as we all know). A few minutes later, they were waiting in line to play Marian Gaborik on NHL 14 - two unique experiences that fans just don’t happen upon.
They’re part and parcel of the Blue Jackets’ annual Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Night, one of the most anticipated events of the year.
Invitations are extended to all quarter, half and full season ticket plan holders to enjoy a night of autographs, family fun, locker room tours, drinks (for the adults) served by Jody Shelley and so much more.
Here’s a rundown of the night’s events:
- multiple player autographs
- face-off lessons from Ryan Johansen and Derek MacKenzie, Boone Jenner and Mark Letestu
- shooting drills with Cam Atkinson
- rapid-shot basketball with Nick Foligno and Blake Comeau
- bubble hockey with Artem Anisimov
- face painting
- celebrity bar tending from Jody Shelley and Bob McElligott
- a complete tour of the Blue Jackets locker room
- video games with Marian Gaborik
- air hockey with Sergei Bobrovsky
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this particular event is that anyone can come to the arena and have a good time. There are family-oriented activities, also events geared toward adults, a little hockey on the ice, and autographs. Who doesn’t like autographs from their favorite Blue Jackets players?
That’s what makes this event a slam-dunk, mark-in-red-on-the-calendar night for Tim Hobart and his nine-year-old son, Charlie.
“This is a great event for families, and as season tickets holders for 11 seasons, and it’s one we always look forward to,” Hobart said. “I can bring my son down here, and he just played basketball with Nick Foligno…that’s pretty awesome. He can interact with players, and he really looks up to them and it’s a chance for him to meet them and see how genuine they truly are.
“Most of these kids play some sort of sport and it’s a unique, cool thing for them to interact with players in this way.”
When it comes time to choose a new season ticket plan or to renew current season tickets, plan holder Emily Litscher said STH Appreciation Night is one of the first things she thinks of that makes it worthwhile - and it’s not even close.
“I mean, we’re walking around the arena and seeing Bobrovsky play air hockey with kids and Johansen is showing kids how to take face-offs. I don’t think you would get to do that anywhere else. It’s a really special event for everyone,” Litscher said.
“It definitely makes me want to renew even more, and that’s on top of just going to the games. A few weeks ago, I was at the Casino Night and trying to speak Russian with some of the players…I don’t think you can beat that.”
And part of what makes hockey players and the hockey community different than other sports is that the Blue Jackets players are invested in this event, too. They’re not just sliding on a jersey, sitting at a table for a couple of hours and watching as scores of fans pass by; they are involved on a personal level, seeing familiar faces and shaking hands with those they haven’t met.
It’s a mutual respect and appreciation that makes this event appropriate of its name, Ryan Johansen said.
“We get to know our fans a little better, and to me, that’s the really cool thing,” Johansen said. “Instead of signing a quick thing or two, we’re meeting their friends, their kids and hearing their stories. It’s cool that I got to teach some kids how to take a face-off and some of them were really good at it.
“Our season ticket holders have invested a lot of time and money into our organization, and this is just one way for us to say thank you. It makes you appreciate our fans and the city of Columbus even more - that’s who we play for every single night.”