Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Carry the Flag: CBJ Pride Hits New High

I knew since the inaugural season that the term 'Blue Jackets' was a reference to civil war, not a mutant wasp. Until recently, the organization had not embraced this side of their character. The original CBJ logo had the number of stars in the Union and later images of Stinger showed him donning a Civil War era cap, but until last season, this is far as the reference went.

Last year debuted the Jackets Civil War pregame video. Instead of the fly-by of a fighter jet dropping a puck into the arena as it screamed over Columbus on its way to intercept that night's opponent, we fans saw a Union army rushing through the trees in a full-on attack. They barraged through a snow covered landscape, over fences and atop rolling hills. As they approach the enemy, they transform into 21st century hockey players.

There was something about that video sequence I didn't like. Equating a bunch of European and Canadian hockey players with Northern troops attacking their former countrymen following years of political unrest due to socio-economic disparity between the two regions... well, I think you see where I'm going with this. There was something about it that just didn't add up. Maybe it was too close to home, or maybe it was too near in the past. How long ago is long enough? Would fans be ok with 'The Columbus Doughboys' or the 'GI's', characterized as fighting Germans? I'm not so sure. If nothing else, it was a poor effort at marketing.

This year, they followed through with the theme. The slogan for this season is 'Carry the Flag' and it is more than supported by quotes from generals, politicians, and other famous leaders on season tickets, posters and other marketing paraphernalia. The addition of the cannon is superb. My only non-positive remark about it is simply, why didn't they get it sooner? The completed transition to the Ohio flag logo helps a lot too. The Civil War era hats are also becoming more commonplace, and are available at Nationwide Arena's souvenir stands. To top it off, the opening night swag was a flag with the team logo emblazoned upon it. Greg Murray encouraged us to bring them with us to each and every game this season to help 'Carry the Flag'.

On opening night, there was a spectacular video montage of quotes about battle. The music, lighting, and tone of the show played to everyone's emotions. The goosebumps peaked as they showed each player saying "I will", "I will", and "I will carry the flag." The atmosphere in the arena was so rich with emotion and excitement that I nearly forgot we were talking about hockey. At that moment, we could have been preparing to attack Vicksburg, Shiloh, or Eurasia, and it wouldn't have phased me.

This year, it's a top-to-bottom Civil War homage. Maybe it's because Hitchcock is a Civil War buff, or maybe this was the plan all along. Either way, I'm over the dilemma regarding it being too soon or too close. I still get a laugh over Zherdev saying he'll carry the Union flag, but hey, I'll get past that too. Most of all, I don't mind roughing up an on-ice Johnny Reb- which is all the more appropriate when the Jackets face Nashville, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, and especially Atlanta. Sherman's march shall be re-enacted inside the arena. It's really about the notion that if the Jackets are going to make a statement, it's going to be hard work. It's going to take pride and perseverance to succeed. Maybe it's just the marketing, but this team looks up to the task.

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