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Blue Jackets fans weigh in on the team's top rivalries

A big weekend of college football leads to a question about on-ice feuds

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

For fans of rivalries, it was a good weekend in Columbus. 

In fact, the city's team faced its biggest rival, drawing a raucous sellout crowd that featured plenty of supporters of each team. 

And the Blue Jackets sent the home fans home happy, too, earning a 5-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.  

What, you thought we were talking about a football game Up North? 

OK, we kid a little bit. There's plenty of room in the Columbus sporting landscape for both of those squads, and stick taps to Ohio State for extending its winning streak over the Wolverines to eight in a row yesterday (though we're sure Zach Werenski would disagree).  

But in the spirit of a weekend in which the Blue Jackets hosted the Penguins and the Buckeyes squared off with Wolverines, it seemed like a good time to ask fans just where the Blue Jackets sit on the rivalry spectrum. 

Results of our very unscientific Twitter poll conducted Friday showed that the majority of Blue Jackets fans consider the Pens to be the team's No. 1 rival. It makes sense, after all. There were the postseason series of 2014 and 2017, there's the geographic proximity between the two -- according to Google Maps, PPG Paints Arena is the closest NHL barn to Nationwide, as the car drives -- and it even feels a bit like the Cleveland/Pittsburgh rivalry on the gridiron with Ohio taking on a black-and-gold clad foe. 

"I'd say Pittsburgh just because as an Ohioan, I hate all things Pittsburgh," Nancy Lemke wrote on Twitter

"No doubt it's the Penguins," Elijah Urbanek added. "I am excited and at the same time dread when the Penguins come to NWA. Lots of heat no matter what is going on." 

Even Nick Foligno admits this one has a little bit extra to it, and that was when the question was posed before Friday night's game that featured plenty of snarl.

"I think so," he said pregame. "I think just the history we've had with them. I think we just play each other hard. Whenever you play a team so many times and through the playoffs, there's some history with them. I've faced them four times in the postseason, so I'm sick of this team." 

Foligno added that last line with a smile and a laugh, but he went on to acknowledge there's also the fact the Penguins have provided a standard for the Blue Jackets to try to reach with Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and '17.  

Yet, of course, there's some arguments against the Blue Jackets/Penguins battle being considered a true rivalry.  

There are those who say for it to be a true rivalry, Columbus has to win more, and there's an element of truth to that -- Pittsburgh did win those playoff series we mentioned, as well as those recent Cups. It's a newer rivalry, too, not a historic one, as the teams played only 14 times in the first 12 years of the CBJ franchise. And there are many in Pittsburgh who will be quick to remind that the Pens' only true rival wears orange and black and resides on the other side of the Keystone State.  

In fact, when it comes to teams the Blue Jackets have played the most, Detroit sat at the top entering the season with 92 games between the franchises. Between the geographic proximity and the constant battles, the Red Wings were the Jackets' initial main rival from their days in the Western Conference. (Ohio and Michigan tend to have their own beefs when it comes to sports, you may have noticed.) 

"Years ago, I would have said Detroit, but with them being in the other division, I think Pittsburgh is becoming the CBJ's biggest rival," Ed Goodman said on Twitter

And then, when the Blue Jackets appeared on NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry series a few seasons ago, Columbus played not the Penguins or even Detroit, but … Buffalo. 

Buffalo?!? 

At the time, it was good for a bit of a laugh -- after all, the game was likely just put into the series as a way to get each on national TV -- but it also showed that the Blue Jackets, when it comes to rivalries, are a bit of team without a country.  

Other common answers to our Twitter poll included Nashville, a frustrating out for the Jackets in Central Division play back in the day; Tampa Bay, Boston and Washington, teams the CBJ met recently in the postseason; and the New York Rangers, a division squad that has had its fair share of former Blue Jackets over the years (hello, Artemi Panarin). 

So perhaps that's the answer. If the question about a rival has so many answers, there's probably not one true rival. And that's fine, especially now that Wednesday Night Rivalry has gone the way of the dodo. A rivalry is often just as fun as the play on the ice lets it be (ask Detroit and Colorado from the mid-1990s if history or geographic proximity have anything to do with a rivalry).  

Ohio State will always have Michigan, even if the Buckeyes are 17-2 since the 310th Day. The Browns will always have the Steelers. For the Blue Jackets, perhaps it's just best to embrace the rivalries when they happen.  

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