5 things to know about the Columbus Blue Jackets

You’re going to want them to bring back Boomer.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) battles in front of the net against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray (27) during first-period action at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Jan. 8. (DIRK SHADD   |   Times)
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) battles in front of the net against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray (27) during first-period action at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Jan. 8. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published April 10

Even if you’re a die-hard hockey fan, you probably don’t keep daily tabs on the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’ve only been around for 18 seasons, and in that time, they’ve never been a serious contender for a Stanley Cup.

If you’re a casual hockey fan, you may not have known the Blue Jackets existed until last week, when they secured a first-round date with the Lightning.

HARD COVER BOOK: The Tampa Bay Times will produce a coffee table book commemorating the season

So fans old and new: Meet the Blue Jackets. Here are five things to know about the Lightning’s first-round foe.

1. The “Blue Jackets” nickname pays tribute to Ohio’s contributions to the Civil War. It has nothing to do with a bug.

According to NHL.com, when the city of Columbus learned that it would get a team in 1997, it partnered with Wendy’s restaurants on a naming contest. Some 14,000 suggestions poured in, which were whittled down to 10. “Blue Jackets” was chosen over “Justice.”

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In the Civil War, Union soldiers wore blue fatigues. The “Blue Jackets” name pays tribute to the overwhelming sacrifice made by the state of Ohio during America’s costliest war. Ohio contributed more troops per capita than any other Union state. Ohio also supplied key Union generals such as William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.

2. Their mascot is, however, a bug.

Some of you who first read the name “Blue Jackets” may have thought the name referred to a bug. It’s an understandable misconception. The team isn’t exactly making things less confusing by making the mascot a bug that sort of looks like the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.

The Columbus Blue Jackets mascot Stinger at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets mascot Stinger at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

To its credit, the team seems to have embraced the bug vs. Civil War tension. One of the Jackets’ alternate logos from the team’s early years featured the team’s mascot, Stinger, in a blue Union military getup.

3. The Blue Jackets once trotted out a second mascot and it was a hilarious disaster.

In 2010, the Blue Jackets announced that a second mascot would appear at some games. That mascot would be called “Boomer,” and he would be an anthropomorphized cannon. Like, a Civil War-era cannon.

Look at this beautiful boy.

Sure, the Columbus Alive news outlet wrote at the time that Boomer “either looked like a) a giant phallus with a mustache or b) a giant bong with a mustache.” And sure, the Blue Jackets quietly retired Boomer just months into his tenure as backup mascot.

But I would argue that some stars are just too bright to shine in our solar system. Thank you, Boomer. We miss you. We want you back.

4. The Blue Jackets have won fewer playoff games than any current NHL franchise.

We should probably talk about hockey, so here goes. No team has had less playoff success than the Blue Jackets. They’ve qualified for the playoffs four times, but have never made it out of the the first round. They’ve netted a total of five wins in those four trips.

The franchise has been around for 18 years, but they’ve yet to retire a single player’s number. They’ve had more than twice as many coaches (9) as NHL first- or second-team All-Star selections (4).

Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during a November 2016 game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena in Tampa. (Times (2016)
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during a November 2016 game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena in Tampa. (Times (2016)

The 2018-19 edition of the Blue Jackets has a scary scorer in Cam Atkinson, and Artemi Panarin set a franchise record this year with 87 points. But Columbus certainly doesn’t have history on its side.

5. Their coach is John Tortorella, the coach who led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004.

John Tortorella coached the Lightning to a championship in 2004, a place no Bolts team has gone before or since. Torts has bounced around the NHL, coaching the New York Rangers for six years, the Vancouver Canucks for one year, and then the Blue Jackets for the past four.

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Chicago. The Columbus Blue Jackets won 5-2. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Chicago. The Columbus Blue Jackets won 5-2. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

He’s also one of the most colorful characters in the NHL. In 2014, as the coach of the Canucks, he tried to fight an opposing team’s head coach during the intermission of a game.

Tortorella has led the Blue Jackets to the playoffs the past two seasons, and he accounts for three of the franchise’s five playoff wins.

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