Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fan Fest 9-9-11

I am SO ready for hockey season to start!! This morning the wife and I went down to Nationwide to watch Training Camp 2011. We were going to get up early and get downtown for the beginning of it (9 AM) but because I've been so busy lately I overslept and we didn't get to Nationwide until about 9:45. We saw the end of the first team and then stayed for most of the second team. It only made me want the season to start all that much sooner! It also reminded me that I never got to write up "Fan Fest"! It happened on Friday, Sept 9 but then I went off to Detroit on business and didn't get a chance to finish this report. So here it is, a week late...sorry! 
On Sept 9, 2011 my family and I went down to Nationwide Arena to attend the Columbus Blue Jackets "Fan Fest." It was billed as an open house for CBJ fans to come down and meet "More than 20 CBJ Players" and to, by the way, purchase flex packs or half-season or full season tickets. We have already purchased our half-season tickets (with every intention of going to additional games when we can or when they give away cool stuff that we want) so we didn't have to bother with the "business" side of the evening. No, we went down to meet the players, and in my daughter's case, one player in particular.  
The event started at 5 pm with various Autograph Sessions starting at that time. We were going to try to get Rick Nash's autograph, because even though we've been to these types of things before we've never met The Captain. Well, we still haven't! There was a *huge* line for him and all the "guaranteed" tickets had been given out by the time we got there. (An aide hands out 250 tickets to the people in the line and if you have one, you are guaranteed to get an autograph.) So we quickly split up: the daughter and wife got in line to wait for Derick Brassard and Kris Russell and I went to try my luck with Derek Dorsett and Antoine Vermette. There wasn't quite the line for them as there had been for Rick Nash, so I got my brand-new pennant signed by these two guys first (that's Derek on the right and Antoine on the left). While I was waiting in line, I struck up a conversation with the women behind me. It turns out that the daughter and son-in-law live in the same apartment complex as many of the single players, so they are friends! It was so fun to hear stories about them as I waited to meet them.... and the woman heard that my daughter was in line to meet Derick, she asked if she could go with me to meet up with him, too. So as soon as we said Hello to one Derek we headed over to say hello to another! He hadn't arrived yet, so we ended up having plenty of time.

First up was my favorite guy, Kris Russell. Not sure why I like him....I just do, haha! Well the woman in line with us had a son and she asked Kris to hold him while she took their picture. I figured I'd take a shot, too, to commemorate the experience. Take a good look at Kris Russell's face...more about that later. Then we were there, right in front of him: Derick Brassard, my daughter's favorite player. She had written him a note and after handing it off to him she got him to sign her CBJ flag. Then his neighbor, who I was still standing with, said, "Derick, you're her favorite player. I heard all about it. She loves you!" To which I said,  since I was now standing in front of him asking him to sign my pennant, "It's true. She loves you. I just like you a lot." We both laughed.

With that, it was just a matter of killing time before we had to get in line to get our "official" Player Photo Station picture taken with Derick. His time was set at 7:30 (after Antoine, Jeff Carter, and Steve Mason). So we decided to get in line to get our photo taken with Antoine because I was the only one had met him. So we had to go to the other side of the arena and get in line to go on the ice and stand with the player as a professional photographer took our picture. The line actually moved pretty quickly and it was all done very well. That's Antoine on the right. :-)

Like I said, the daughter was just waiting for Derick to be available again, so we decided to do what I wanted to do and got in line to get autographs from Kris Russell's twin brother, Ryan, and relative newcomer Matt Calvert. Look again at that photo above of Kris Russell. Now look at this photo below of his brother, Ryan. Kris. Ryan. Twins alright. I 've already talked about Ryan Russell joining the CBJ this year, but I haven't told the story about meeting (yes, actually meeting) Matt Calvert. Last season he was on fire as LW. He played some game and actually scored a Hat Trick (three goals in one game). It was awesome, and my wife and I happened to be at Nationwide when it happened. The next day all three of us drove to Nashville to watch the CBJ play the Predators. We joked that it would be funny if we happend to see any players in downtown Nashville the night before the game (we drove down on Saturday; game was Sunday afternoon). Well you can probably guess...we were walking down the streets of Nashville and who isn't crossing the street but Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome! We did a double-take and then I, being the shy type that I am, shouted at them, "Matt Calvert! and...Grant Clitsome! You guys are awesome! Good luck tomorrow!!" They looked at us, kind of nodded, and kept walking. We, of course, were ecstatic! Fan Fest when I handed him my pennant to sign we said, "We were the people who met you in Nashville." And he said, "That was YOU!?"
as if he would never forget that experience. (We joked that it was probably the first time he had ever been recognized outside of Columbus.) So that was nice.

By that time it was time to get in line for Derick again. We got to the tail-end of the Jeff Carter line and let several people go on ahead who wanted his photo. Now, a few words about Jeff Carter. He was evidently a star for the Philadelphia Flyers whom I had never heard of. Now what I think sucks about his situation was that when he heard rumors that we wanted him and that he was going to be traded, he went into Philly management and asked them directly about it; they told him a bald-faced lie that they weren't going to trade him. They, of course, then turned around and gave him to us for Jacob Voracek and some other bodies. Now I *know* that Sports is a Business, but I still think this sucks.
For a few days there were stories about whether Carter would fight the trade or be angry at us for the trade or what have you. It turns out that he was rightly sore at Philadelphia! Unfortunately, the Flyers don't come here to Columbus this season, but on Nov 5 you better believe we're going to be watching that Philly game on TV! May I predict that we will win that game? ;-)

Anyway, we got in line to get our photo taken with Derick. First, of course, the daughter got her picture with him by herself first. Then we all joined him. He was as nice as could be. He put his arms around us and acted like we were his good friends. I guess this is one of the reasons I like supporting the Blue Jackets....the players who I have been lucky enough to meet have all been genuinely friendly and nice. They certainly don't come off as "divas" or a$$holes or whatever the term for jocks is. Maybe because in Columbus they have to play second fiddle to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team; I don't know. But it's fun to cheer these guys on and meeting them at things like this just makes it easier for me to do it.

After this photo op there was an additional exhibition On-Ice Skills Competition that we stayed for, but for the half hour before it started all the daughter did was try to take candid photos of her favorite. I'll leave you with one of the better ones.

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