Sunday, December 17, 2023

Letter to the Columbus Blue Jackets - You've got this!

When I'm not writing or working my day job, or even my second job, I'm watching hockey. This was written for Instagram, hence the tags, so bear with me. I started typing and got a tad wordy. :-) It's not my fault. 

So I posted this earlier today on Twitter: 
Dear Columbus Blue Jackets 

I’m so very new to hockey, and I’ve read a ton of hockey romances (don’t laugh!), so this year, I bought a quarter-season pass so I could actually learn the game. (My ticket rep, Casey, is awesome!) And well - I love live sports, and hockey is awesome, so here I am. I’m getting particularly invested in my hometown team of the @bluejacketsnhl and am even saving up for a Marchenko jersey, which I’ll probably be able to get in time for next season. ($300 for a jersey. Who knew?)

Dear CBJ Front Office: please extend Marchy’s contract for many many years. Thank you. While you’re at it, do the same for Voronkov and Chinakhov. Спасебо! 

PS - If you need me to learn Russian to help out with that, I’ll do it. I already speak Bulgarian, so how hard could it be? HMB

Anyway - here are a few thoughts on my Columbus Blue Jackets. 🙂🏒🥅

Safe to say, last night’s game against the Devils wasn’t our best game. 

We pretty much played all three periods about the same way we played the 3rd period against the Maple Leafs last week as if they were just 5 men and a goalie all wearing the same jerseys and playing at the same time but not playing as if they were part of a cohesive team. I don’t know. Maybe they all need a hug? 

But even though our Russian line didn’t really gel last night, @marchenkokirill86 and @chinakhov_59 still scored goals, which means we’ve got hope. They’ve only been playing together in the same line for what? A few weeks or something? Seriously - they’ll be awesome for us for a long, long time. So - Kirill, Dmitri, Yegor - please don’t give up on Columbus! We want you to stick with us! 

Texier got a PP goal as well (très bien fait!), which means we’re improving on our Power Plays. 

Kuraly’s line is always fun to watch. @sean.kuraly may end up in the sin bin a little more than we’d like, but he’s not afraid to go after the puck. And like @mattolivier24, he has no problem getting physical, which leads me to @guddy44 - who did what the officials could not after they changed the boarding call to a minor. 🤬🤬🤬Not that we’re bitter or anything. Glad the team had your back on that 7-minute PP. 

Ahem. 😜

That said, the top 25 points leaders far outmatch all our guys so far. #25 - Robert Thomas with the @stlouisblues has 32 points. Our best guy, @zachwerenski, has 23. Behind him are our captain @boonejenner and my favorite player Kirill Marchenko with 18 each. Jenner is out until the latter half of January with a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. And more leadership is out with @patriklaine, thanks to a broken collarbone suffered last week in Toronto.

Seriously, men - OUCH! 

As for actual goals, Jenner is also our current leader with 13. Marchy is second, after getting his 10th goal last night, our only two players in double digits. I've no doubt that Marchy will pass Jenner up by the time he returns to the lineup. Whatever we do, we need more players in double digits, and we need to stop letting the other teams score 5 or more goals per game! GAH! Yeah - easier said than done, especially from my vantage point in either a comfortable seat in the Club Level or from home. (Or that one time while waiting to board my plane.)

In addition, we’re now lacking leadership on the ice, which makes us look like we're just chasing the puck rather than controlling it. Not to mention, we have a tough time with winning faceoffs. Jenner is a leader in those. 

We'll get there. 

@adamfantilli is gaining his stride. He’s one of the players right on the heels of Jenner and Marchenko with 17 points with 8 of those as goals. He’s gonna be great! 

Again. We’ll get there. I just hope it's this year. I don't want to see the team give up on Columbus.🙂 And we in the 5th line won't give up on you. Geez - we're not like the late 1970's Eagles fans!

As for overall leadership, I miss seeing Jenner on the ice at the end of the game - standing by to greet, fist bump, pat the players on the back, and congratulate them all at the end of the game before they head down the chute to the locker room. He’s always the last one to congratulate the goalie. (I love the helmet-tapping tradition!) 

It’s just a little something that we fans notice that he does to keep them together. 

I’m clearly not an insider, and I’ve only been in their locker room during an open house on a tour a few weeks ago before Babcock and the Blue Jackets organization parted ways, making way for Pascal Vincent to take over at the helm. Needless to say, I don’t know what goes on there. No idea if, while he’s healing, Jenner still makes appearances in the arena or not. If not, other players need to step up. 

Numbers 7 - 8 - 44 (Ironically, 7/8/44 is my dad's birthday) are the obvious choices, but I can see Marchenko easily stepping up and taking on a leadership role as well. He’s got the chops on the ice (though I can picture him a tad more aggressive, but he’s already a good player and will be absolutely great.). Plus, he’s definitely got the personality and drive to really encourage and lead his team. And, a fan favorite, who doesn’t love watching his interviews? 😂 

So, to the Blue Jackets, what can we do to help you out? I can’t skate to save my life, though I’ll be there on Tuesday night to make the attempt. (Don’t laugh - my goal is to get through one lap around the rink without falling on my butt too many times. Seriously - it’s all fun and games until someone breaks a hip.) 

That said, you’re totally stuck with me. In my attempt to learn the game, I’m finding it’s easily becoming an addiction, so I fully plan to buy season tickets again next year and attend as many games as I can. It’s not a ton - well - it’s almost double what I’ve attended since the Thrashers started, so it's not saying too much at this stage. Yes - I lived in Atlanta. And yes - I have a Thrashers jersey. 1999 was when I declared myself an NHL fan and chose a team. Prince said I should party that year, so don’t judge me. 

When I returned to the US, I returned to Columbus, and the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg anyway, sigh, so … here I am.) Anyway… I already loved live sports, and as I learn the game, I’m finding I really love hockey, though I’m still concentrating on just learning all your names, numbers, and faces. 

Like you, I’m making progress, too. 

So, CBJ - will you stick it out? Will your front office start making better decisions? What can help bring you boys together on the ice? And yeah - I called you boys since you’re all young enough to be my nephews. Deal with it. 

So, what’ll it be? How can we help? Besides cheering and losing our voices during games? And having heart attacks when your 5-0 lead goes into OT? OK - not a heart attack, but heart palpitations, at least. 

Whatever you do, I’ll be there as often as I can to cheer you on, so keep working. I think Pazzy has some great ideas for the team based on the interviews I’ve heard, and you’re all picking up his lingo in your own interviews, so at least some of it is beginning to take hold.

Now, I know the fans at large are impatient and already want to get rid of people, but we’re here, and you’re playing now. Keep working together. Keep playing your best and keep playing as a team. You’re young. We know this. And despite my 2-5 record so far this year for games attended (I love those club seats, though I’ll be switching things up for this Saturday’s game), I’ll keep coming to games. I may be a lifelong Cubs fan, but please - don’t take as long as the Cubs did to win it all. I don’t want a rough season to become a tradition! 

Best of luck to you against the Capitals on Thursday. I don’t have tickets, but I’ll be cheering you on from home. 

Play well, and know we in the 5th line are all rooting for you!



P.S. Dmitri (because I’m obviously on a first-name basis with all of you) - I’m so glad you stayed! I was 20 when I first lived in another country where my native language wasn’t spoken. That was just a year, but my second time was at 30, which seems eons away, but that was for nearly 3 years - in Eastern Europe. I absolutely loved it, but yeah - It’s definitely tough being away from home. It's not easy, so I get it. 🙂🏒 

Thanks for sticking it out, no pun intended!  HMB 

P.S. Again - I've seen two hat tricks this year for other teams. May I please request a CBJ hat trick? 


WAYWARD GUILT is the first book in my HEROES OF GRANT'S CROSSING series. Click the cover below to purchase a copy via your favorite online booksellers. Available in digital and paperback.  

My companion novel to Wayward Guilt, Safe Now - Heroes of Grant's Crossing Book 2, is available for pre-order on Amazon.   

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