Thursday, June 25, 2009
It was on this date in 1997 that the NHL officially approved expansion to a 30-team league by the year 2000. In an unusual plan, the Nashville Predators began play in 1998-99 and the Atlanta Thrashers started life the following season in 1999-2000. Then, the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets completed the exten by joining the league for the 2000-01 season, nearly three and a half years after being granted franchises.
The Columbus franchise selected the name "Blue Jackets", a nickname for the Union soldiers in the Civil War, to honor the contributions made by the state of Ohio during the Civil War, including the fact that Ohio contributed more of it's population to the Union Army than any other state and that many of the Union uniforms were also manufactured in Columbus.
Columbus started out life in the NHL with a rough go, finishing last in the Central Division in each of it's first three seasons and averaging only 69 points in it's first seven, missing the playoffs each time out.
Things finally look to be improving for the Blue Jackets however. This past season they made the playoffs for the first time after a 92 point season, the last of the current teams to qualify for the postseason.
They are led by the franchise's all-time leading scorer Rick Nash, who arrived in time for the 2002-03 season after being drafted #1 overall in the 2002 Entry Draft. Nash tied for the league lead in goals with 41 during the 2003-04 season, earning a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy in just his second season in the league. Goaltender Steve Mason adds to the brighter outlook for the Blue Jackets, earning the Calder Memorial Trophy for his stellar debut season in 2008-09.
Today's featured jersey is a 2000-01 Columbus Blue Jackets Lyle Odelein jersey. It features the Blue Jackets Inaugural Season patch, as well as one of our custom made Hockey Fights Cancer patches. Odelein was selected by the Blue Jackets in the 2000 expansion draft and later named the first captain of the franchise.
The Hockey Fights Cancer patch was first worn by the captain of each team for one game only in January of 2001. The patches from 2001 do not carry the date, as they did in the subsequent three years of the program. Each specially patched game worn jersey would then be auctioned off for charity as part of the festivities at that year's NHL All-Star Game to raise money for cancer research.
Dasherboard: When the Nashville Predators joined the league in 98-99, a major realignment of the divisions took place, expanding from two six and two seven team divisions, to six divisions, some with as few as four teams. The Predators came out fine in this plan, being grouped in with established nearby clubs in Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis.
Atlanta was added to the Southeast Division, centrally located between Washington and Carolina to the north and the two Florida clubs, Tampa Bay and Florida, who played in the Miami area, to the south.
Columbus fit in naturally with Nashville in the Central Division when they joined the league, but due to the increased number of teams in the east, Minnesota was slotted in with the teams in the Northwest Division - Colorado, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver - none of whom are even in their time zone and most of which aren't even in the same country!
The other victim of the realignment was the Dallas Stars, who were inexplicably placed in the Pacific Division - 885 miles from their nearest division neighbor and over 1900 miles from said Pacific Ocean after which their division was named...