You all remember it. Well, at least most of you do.
Ron Tugnutt, in his first year with the Blue Jackets, broke the record for the most regular season wins (22) by an expansion team goaltender. He still holds that record, and it’s a big part of a memorable experience in Columbus not only because of the accomplishment, but also because of how much his teammates helped him get there.
Tugnutt holds the record for most saves in a regular season non-loss, he is 10th all-time in goals-against average during the regular season, and holds the Penguins record for highest save percentage in the playoffs, but no record set was as much a team-effort as the (expansion) record-setting win in Columbus.
“I remember I struggled through the entire game and my team, more or less, pulled it out for me, and they were pretty jacked up about it,” Tugnutt told BlueJackets.com. “That was a real fond memory for me because my teammates were just as excited about the possibility of breaking that record — they all knew it was there — and for them to help me through it meant a lot to me.”
Tugnutt was succeeded in goal by Marc Denis, who now works for RDS, and Denis said Tugnutt was behind much of the Blue Jackets’ success during their inaugural season.
“Tugger wasn’t there too long, but he set the bar — or the norm — for expansion team goalies back then (in 2000-01),” Denis told BlueJackets.com.
Besides the record, his wins, and any accomplishment he enjoyed in Columbus, Tugnutt remembers the beginning stages of what is now commonly known as the Arena District, and he still marvels at how much the area has grown and energized both the organization and downtown Columbus.
“I remember the beginning stages, it was a beautiful rink, and the surrounding areas were still pretty raw. But as we started going through in the season, all the sudden those areas started becoming more popular,” Tugnutt recalled. “Just the building up that of area, I think now it’s the place to be. At the time it really wasn’t, it was a rink and there was some stuff there, but not nearly to the degree there it is now.
"So it’s nice to see them come in and do a good job around the rink to draw people in; the restaurants, the bars, and so forth...it just kind of adds to the whole Blue Jackets organization and the games, the atmosphere.”
Since he retired following the 2003-04 season, Tugnutt has stayed involved with the game via several different outlets. He took a year off following his retirement to spend time with family, and since then, he has taken a scenic route around the game of hockey.
Tugnutt worked with Hockey Night in Canada as a color analyst before signing on with Team Canada as a goaltending consultant for the national junior team. He got into coaching as an assistant coach with the Peterborough Petes (OHL), where he worked with more than just the goalies.
“It was like a dual job for me. I worked with the goalies as well as the defense,” he explained. “I did things like the penalty kill unit, and I stayed pretty involved.”
Now, Tugnutt is the owner of the Kemptville (Ontario) 73’s Junior A hockey team in the Central Junior Hockey League. Though he's made several stops since leaving Columbus, Tugnutt has kept an eye on the Blue Jackets and though it took a little time, he thinks they have the right people in place to make Columbus a contender.
“They’ve really struggled to get that consistency as an organization and they’ve had players in and out, but I’ve always believed to take charge and be the leaders, and I think they’ve brought in some real quality people,” Tugnutt explained. “John Davidson, I think, has really stabilized things. They know what they’re looking for and they have a direction.
"I’ve seen the success in the past couple of years, and hopefully the success will continue because they’ve created a nice, stable atmosphere from the top down.”