Geoff Sanderson enjoyed a 16-year career where he played for eight different NHL teams, including a four-year stint with the Blue Jackets from 2000-04.
Sanderson was a big part of the 2000-01 team that kicked off a new era of professional sports in Columbus. On February 10, 2001, Sanderson became the first Blue Jacket to record a hat trick when he scored all three goals in a 3-1 victory over the Predators at Nationwide Arena.
Though Columbus was a new market to the NHL, Sanderson fondly remembers how Blue Jackets fans were just as crazy then as they are now even though they didn’t know what to expect.
“I remember the excitement and hysteria surrounding the team,” Sanderson told BlueJackets.com. “Coming to Columbus with a brand new facility, they had been waiting for years. Just the excitement and energy surrounding the team and the city is clearly what I remember during the first year.
“I remember some of the games we had against Nashville and Minnesota, we had a little bit of a rivalry against those organizations, just being a new team as well.”
Coming into Columbus, Sanderson admitted that he didn’t know what to expect because the Blue Jackets were a young and new team, although they did bring in veteran bodies to fill the lineup. Sanderson said that knowing a few of the players prior helped him adapt to the new scenario in Columbus.
“I played with Kevin (Dineen) in Hartford, I played with Andrew (Cassels) in Hartford, and actually we were a line there for a few years and had some success together,” he said. “I knew a lot of guys going into the expansion year, and that was another part of what made it special. When you’re such close friends with Andrew and Kevin, and getting an opportunity to play with them again...I had a history with a lot of guys going in, and it made it special playing with them again.”
Sanderson and Cassels played together for six years in Hartford before playing on the same line again for two seasons in Columbus.
“(Sanderson) was a quiet leader,” Cassels told BlueJackets.com. “He wasn’t a big ‘rah-rah’ guy in the locker room, but he led by example on the ice and he was an extremely hard worker off the ice. On the ice he tried to do all the little things right, and even though he wasn’t a huge goal-scorer, he would block shots, kill penalties, and lead by example.”
After registering 700 points (355 goals and 345 assists) in 1104 NHL games, Sanderson hung up his skates following the 2007-08 season. He spent a year living in his Montana cottage - which gave him some time to contemplate his future - before joining the New York Islanders’ front office.
Sanderson worked in player development for the Islanders for two years, but it was too much for him right after his playing career. He now runs an oil and gas rental company named Breakaway Matting in Calgary, Alberta, and follows his three boys throughout their journeys in hockey.
“It was a great experience and I really loved the job, but I found it to be too much like a player’s lifestyle,” Sanderson said. “You’re constantly on the road away from the family, missing a lot of things that I cherish now, like my boys playing their own sports.
“I have three boys and I’m active in their own player development, I’ve got a peewee, a novice, and a bantam-aged son. I want to be there for my boys, and make sure they enjoy hockey and are taught and coached the way that I think they should be.”
When asked if he would ever get back into hockey at some form or level, he said he probably wouldn’t, but he does sometimes think about how much he misses the game.
“The temptation is always there and there is opportunity to get back in, but I’m pretty happy with the ways that things are going in my life right now in Calgary," Sanderson said.
Sanderson had nothing but good things to say about the Blue Jackets’ 2013-14 season and the forward steps taken by the organization over the past two years.
“I followed the team closely over the year and I was pulling for them,” Sanderson said. “I’m real excited that John Davidson and Todd Richards are in there now. Todd is a great coach and had a great season, and John has been around hockey for as long as I can remember; he’s probably the right guy directing the Blue Jackets right now.”