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Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus has had a history of professional hockey dating back to 1966. But the NHL did not make an entrance until the Columbus Blue Jackets were formed as Columbus, Ohio landed a National Hockey League expansion franchise in the summer of 1997. Team owner John McConnell announced the selection of the team name in the winter of 1997. The Blue Jackets name pays homage to Ohio's contributions to American history. During the Civil War, Ohio made signinficant contributions to the Union Army and many of the uniforms worn by the Union soldiers were manufactured in Columbus. The team logo was based on an insect exemplifying qualities like hardwork and resourcefullness that the community wished to highlight. The Blue Jackets hired former Florida Panthers coach Doug MacLean as their general manager and later that year in 1998 broke ground in downtown Columbus for the Nationwide Arena, future home of the Blue Jackets.

In 1999 as construction of the arena was in full swing, the Blue Jackets continued to fill in their front office positions. They also signed up the Syracuse Crush of the American Hockey League as their minor league affiliate team. The Blue Jackets selected a total of eleven players in their first amatuer entry draft held at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. Included was Brampton Battalion defenseman Rostislav Klesla as the franchise's first ever draft pick. Later that summer they unveiled their coaching staff with former Calgary Flames and Team Canada coach Dave King named as the first head coach in team history. Newell Brown and Gerard Gallant were hired as assistants along with Rick Wamsley as goaltending coach. Meantime the Nationwide Areana was completed and opened in the fall of 2000, hosting concerts by country music superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. The club was ready to step on the ice for the 2000-01 season.

Columbus Blue Jackets made their NHL debut on October 7, 2000, against divison rivals Chicago Blackhawks. Bruce Gardiner scored the first ever regular season goal in team history but the Blue Jackets lost that game 5-3. Their first win was a 3-2 effort against the Calgary Flames less than a week later. The Blue Jackets finished their first season at the bottom of the Central division with a 28-39-9-6 record for 71 points. They continued to build out the team through the NHL amateur entry draft by selecting goaltending prospect Pascal Leclaire as one of their eleven picks. Their second season featured a typical Dave King team, hard working with a a penchant for defensive play. The young franchise had to go through a great loss within the community in what many described as a freak accident. Thirteen year old Brittanie Cecil was struck by a deflected puck while attending the Blue Jackets game against the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena and tragically died two days later. She became the first fan fatality in the NHL's 85-year history and led to the implementation of 'protective nets' in all arenas the very next year. The team finished their second season dropping in wins and points from their innaugural campaign with a 22-47-8-5 record for 57 points.

In the 2002 entry draft, the Blue Jackets selected a highly touted London Knights star prospect, Rick Nash with their third overall pick. He stepped right into the NHL as an eighteen year old and more than held his own scoring 39 points in 74 games. The Blue Jackets had gotten off to a poor start and half way through the season found themselves in second-last place within the Western Conference. This led to the firing of Dave King, the only coach the team had since entering the league in 2000. President and general manager Doug MacLean took over the additional responsibility to be the team's interim coach. The team finished the regular season, once again out of the playoffs and last in their division with a 28-43-8-3 record for 67 points. About halfway through the 2003-04, Doug MacLean stepped aside as coach naming former assistant coach Gerrad Galant as the bench boss. Overall the team regressed in performance tallying just 62 regular season points and once again missing the playoffs. 2005-06 was not a very good year for the Blue Jackets as they got off to a slow start, thanks to a nagging high ankle sprain that plagued star forward Rick Nash and injuries to Rostislav Klesla and prospect Gilbert Brule. They finished 3rd in the Central division and out of the playoffs.

Columbus Blue Jackets Overview:
Team name: Columbus BlueJackets
Founded: 2000
Arena: Nationwide Arena
Stanley Cups won: 0

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