Saturday, October 5, 2013

Calgary Flames 4 at Columbus Blue Jackets 3 - October 4, 2013


Columbus is halfway between Cleveland and Cincinnati and is probably most famous for being the home of The Ohio State University. Even with the #4 Buckeyes on the road this weekend, there were a couple of big local events. First, the President's Cup (a golf tournament featuring the US against the rest of the world and not something I am particularly interested in watching) is being held at nearby Muirfield. Second, and more intriguing to me, the Columbus Blue Jackets opened their 2013-14 season as members of the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference.

I was here back in 2010 so I'm not going to write about Nationwide Arena again. I didn't even bother getting there until a few minutes before game time, and again got a discounted club seat as that was the best option at the box office. I took my seat just as the Blue Jackets began to be introduced. I was impressed with the laser autographs for each player that were shown on the ice, something I hadn't seen before (below).



Then it was time for the ceremonial face off and Jack Nicklaus was the honorary guest! He is from the area, attended Ohio State and founded Muirfield, so it makes perfect sense to have him drop the first puck, especially with the Presidents Cup taking place just a few miles away.



After that, it was game time. Joey MacDonald (below), my favourite goalie, started for Calgary, who had lost to Washington in a shootout the night before. The Blue Jackets countered with reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky.



The first period saw each team score twice, with 18-year-old Sean Monahan (drafted sixth overall in 2013 from Ottawa and #23 below on the face-off) opening his NHL account by knocking in a rebound just 2:27 in.



After Jack Johnson tied it on a power play, the Flames regained the lead on a great goal by T.J. Galiardi, who capitalized on a bad pass by rookie Ryan Murray (#2 overall pick in 2012, below), breaking free and scoring with a backhand to the top shelf.



Columbus tied it again when Marian Gaborik (below) batted home the puck from the goalmouth, and it looked like it might be a high-scoring night but the second stanza was without a goal, although the action continued to be quite good, including one period of over 5 minutes of continuous action.



In the third, Galiardi fed Jiri Hudler (below) with a pass from center and Hudler skated in and beat Bobrovsky with a wicked snapshot from the left faceoff circle. Just 42 seconds later, Curtis Glencross was left alone in front and easily converted a pass from David Jones to make it 4-2.  This turn of events surprised the fans for some reason, as if Columbus never loses. One simpleton was heard to say "Are you kidding me?! Bobrovsky was the best goalie in the league last year!" Yeah, but none of the goals was really his fault. Blame Blake Comeau who was on the ice for all four.



Although Columbus scored with five minutes to go to make it close, a late penalty to Johnson ended any chance of a tie and the home team lost their first game in the Eastern Conference, ironically against a former conference foe.



Notes

The fans around me were some of the worst I've experienced. In particular there was a family behind me who talked throughout the game, sometimes encouraging, but more often yelling something or other at the team such as "Clear the Zone!". When Johnson was correctly called for interference with 1:09 to go, the wife went ballistic, screaming at the top of her lungs while other fans in my section looked back in concern. Even after the game ended she continued to berate the referee, who had given the game to Calgary with that horrible call. They had three young daughters who will grow up to think that such behaviour is appropriate when it just annoys everyone and makes you look like the idiots you are.

Then during a camera on the crowd bit, one fan did a double bird flip for no apparent reason, and another simulated a sexual act. Impressive!

I know it is not fair to tar the entire fan base due to a few bad apples, but these guys are worse than any of the fans I have encountered on my NFL trip, which is both sad and surprising.

Best,

Sean

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