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Blue Jackets Links

The forgotten team: the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Outside of perhaps myself, readers in and around Columbus, and my fellow Blue Jackets' bloggers, there are probably not all too many people out there who have heard about the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets. Part of the United States Hockey League, the OJBJ are going to be starting their second season down at Nationwide Arena this year.

Suffice it to say, there is a good reason that probably half of the city of Columbus doesn't even know that the team exists. Besides the abysmal record of 13-40 (amazingly better than the Chicago Steel's record), the team was given the short end of the publicity stick. Don't believe me? Check out this attendance average comparison from the very short Clark Cup Playoffs:

It's a little squished, but what it says is that the Junior Blue Jackets had an average attendance of 776 over the 30 home games that they played in the regular season. That's over 1,000 less than the second worst drawing team -- Chicago -- and they even fared better in the standings than the Junior Blue Jackets did!

Believe me when I tell you that the attendance for pretty much every game seemed even worse than that, if it is even possible. They didn't play in the adjacent Dispatch Ice Haus, but instead inside of Nationwide Arena itself, where the fact that there wasn't even 800 fans out of a capacity 18,136 for hockey games became depressingly apparent.

Let's get back on focus, though, and talk about publicity for this team. The Blue Jackets', for the most part, left the OJBJ for dead after just a few weeks in to the season. It was all but impossible to find anything on the team in local papers such as The Columbus Dispatch as well, meaning that the only way you could even follow the team was to go online and and check out the OJBJ's website.

I understand that the first year for teams such as this are usually pretty rough. The Junior Blue Jackets' didn't catch any breaks, as a majority of the players had to commute from places such as Cleveland, and were unable to simply stay season-round in Columbus. When you're just a U-18 kid, trips all over a state just for your home games can be annoying, frustrating, and downright ridiculous, among other things.

Financially, I'm sure the business arm of the Blue Jackets probably considers the OJBJ to be a money sink, too. Mind you, that is just my opinion, but when you have a team that loses even worse than the Blue Jackets, costing you all sorts of money to keep the arena open for just a gaggle of people, you're really not going to make even a penny off of them. It got to such a point last season that one didn't even need a ticket at times to see a game. I'm sure that doesn't sit well with certain people in the organization. Fortunately for them, the team is being unceremoniously relegated to the Dispatch Ice Haus for all but 9 games this season, unlike last season where all of maybe 3-4 games out of 30 (plus two playoff games) were played there. Those 9 games that will be at Nationwide, by the way, are in conjunction with the Blue Jackets' playing that same day, as per the press release I received from the team.

But enough griping. The reality is that things need to change, and for the most part, positive changes are being made. While the move to the Ice Haus may seem like a demotion -- and it is -- it's still a good idea. Give the team a chance to build its fanbase, let alone build a competitive team, before you go and start rolling out the red carpet into Nationwide Arena itself. The last game of the last season, for example, drew around 800 - 1,000 fans for an exciting win at the Ice Haus, and the smaller environment made that more respectable crowd seem even bigger and better.

Additionally, the Blue Jackets need to do a damn better job at promoting this team. You can't just drop a USHL team down in your arena, or your adjacent rink, and say "Here's a hockey team! Now let's just sit and wait for every one to see them!" Believe it or not, you're going to actually have to spend a little money to make a little money from them, especially with them being so new and full of probably inexperienced junior players, compared to the other USHL teams. By promoting the team outside of giving free tickets to their games to PSL holders and on certain Blue Jackets' game nights, you'll do a better job at making the team appear more like some sort of legitimate group, and not just some sideshow hanging off of the coattails of the Blue Jackets and their giveaways (even if that is what they seemed like when Ex-GMDM was around).

I don't know about any of the other CBJ bloggers, but I feel almost obligated to try and give this team at least some attention and coverage this season, in conjunction with normal coverage of the Blue Jackets. If papers aren't going to cover them, and the Blue Jackets aren't going to give them the essential marketing tools that they need to even be successful, then I say we make a concerted effort to cover them. They deserve better than this, even if they were MacLean's creation for allegedly selfish reasons.

So I'm going to try and at least make it to, or watch, a quarter of the OJBJ's games this season; 15 out of 60. It might not seem like a lot, but it's something.


  • At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Sarah said…

    I really did intend to make it to some games last season, but just never got around to it. This year, I swear I'm going to make at least some.

    Interesting to hear they're playing in the Ice Haus for a bunch of games this year. I'd heard that they weren't allowed to play there because of a league minimum seating requirement. It should work better, though. A small crowd in a big arena just kills any atmosphere.

    Wonder if there's some way (and it may be not allowed by some arcane NCAA rule) to cross-promote the OJBJs and the hockey Buckeyes. Seems like they probably would appeal to the same market to a certain degree -- budget-conscious hockey fans, families looking for a cheap night out that will entertain the kids, people interested in prospects.

    Actually, I wonder how often OJBJ games were/are at the same time as Buckeye hockey games?

  • At 8:50 AM, Blogger Michael said…

    I remember hearing the same thing when talking with a couple of friends about the team moving their games to the Ice Haus this season. I think the general consensus is that the attendance was just so bad, that it really made no sense whatsoever to put the team in the arena itself. It's really unfortunate, but for the best until they can get their act together. They can look at it like they're trying to "earn" the right to play in Nationwide, so long as they can actually come up with a way to get fans to go to games.

    And that's a good question about when OSU and OJBJ games would conflict. For the most part, just about 80-90% of OJBJ games land on a weekend day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). And, unfortunately, after having checked the OSU hockey team's website, it looks like they also play a healthy dose of their games on the weekends. :-/ So the OJBJ are sort of in a bind.

  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger djl said…

    I had always just sort of assumed the OJBJ's sole reason for existence was so MacLean's kid could play junior hockey in Columbus.

    Now that Dougie Mac is gone, I'd be shocked if the OJBJs were anything but temporary residents in Columbus.

  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger Matt said…

    "I'd be shocked if the OJBJs were anything but temporary residents in Columbus."

    Which, really, is a damn shame, because I think if they were promoted better, they could get a lot more interest. It'd be a nice carrot to dangle in front of a lot of the area high schools that do have hockey programs, or the amateur/youth crowd that play at the Chillers.

  • At 4:30 PM, Blogger Tyler said…

    I attended one of the games last year. It was a fairly quiet affair- not even in the same realm as a real Jackets game. We sat down by the glass (all tix are GA) and it was so-so.

    If some players from local high schools made the team and it became a starting point for an NHL career, this might go somewhere. For now, it's not much better than watching a high school game.

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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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