The Columbus Blue Jackets didn't roll out the red carpet Friday but team officials rolled out the blue carpet to allow fans to cheer on their favorite team at the start of a new season. The Jackets are coming off the first playoff series win in franchise history but will start the 2019-2020 season without several of the star players from that team who left in free agency.
The temperatures in Columbus dropped from the record-high heat earlier in the week just in time to make it feel like hockey season.
"We lost some guys," said Kellen Fasce, a longtime CBJ fan who comes to the home opener every year. "It's unfortunate we turned some players over. Hopefully we've got a good, young corps like they said and hopefully we continue the winning ways because that's what this town needs is a winner."
Crews worked all day Friday setting up food and drink booths and large video screens to show the home opener outside Nationwide Arena. "There’s a lot of excitement and pageantry around opening night," said Jim Riley with the Blue Jackets. "We try to capture that enthusiasm and create a big party for everybody to come down, especially pre-game.”
Riley said he's heard from players about how the grand celebration fires them up at the start of a long season. The 5th Line hopes Friday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the start of another long run into the playoffs.
“Like the Ohio State Buckeye fans, they’re just used to winning and they come out in droves. If that winning tradition continues here, that’s what’s going to happen here," Fasce said. "It’s just a great hockey town.”
The party at the plaza is free regardless of whether someone has bought tickets to the game. Fans without a ticket can watch the game on the video boards on both ends of Nationwide Arena without a ticket.