Back on January 30th, 2012, National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman announced during the NHL’s All-Star Weekend on Ottawa that Columbus, Ohio would be the site of the next NHL All-Star Game (ASG) in January, 2013. But a funny – actually, a cruel twist of fate – thing happened along the way that prevented Columbus from hosting the NHL’s marquee mid-season event.
The NHL and NHL Player’s Association (NHLPA) were embroiled in a bitter lockout, a lockout that lasted long enough to cancel the ASG thus dousing the excitement hosting the ASG would have provided and a much-needed boost for a franchise who was saddled in the depths of a downward spiral, both in on-ice performance and in rapidly-dwindling attendance.
During the past season, however, the fortunes of the once-moribund franchise began to turn: Blue Jackets Team President Mike Priest brought in the former President of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues John Davidson to jump-start their sagging on-ice product. In turn, Davidson incrementally began to rebuild the look of the team as well as restructure their on-ice managerial structure, firing former General Manager (GM) Scott Howson and bringing former Blues and Ottawa Senators Director of Player Development Jarmo Kekalainen to succeed Howson as the GM. There were several other managerial changes as well as material changes to the on-ice personnel resulting in a furious late-season surge that almost catapulted the Blue Jackets into the playoffs.
In spite of all of that prior tumult and the eventual overhaul of its team’s fortunes, the Blue Jackets and their ardent fans were left to wonder if, due to last season’s lockout and the upcoming Winter Olympics, an event that would prohibit the NHL from holding its ASG in 2014, Columbus would be left ‘high and dry’ and missing out on the window of opportunity of hosting the ASG.
However, true to its word, the NHL awarded its 2015 All-Star Game to the Blue Jackets and to the city of Columbus.
Via the Nationwide Arena JumboTron (Digital Scoreboard), NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement last night prior to the 1st intermission of last night’s contest between the Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins. This ASG marks the NHL’s 60th ASG contest and will be held at Nationwide Arena on January 25th, 2015. ASG weekend is a two-day cavalcade of hockey-themed events, entertainment and activities that draws tourism, particularly from its hard-core hockey fans, corporate sponsorship and national and international media throughout North America and from all over the hockey-playing world.
During his JumboTron announcement with John Davidson and Linda Logan, the Columbus Visitors and Convention Bureau president, Bettman proclaimed, “”Columbus is an ideal host city for our All-Star Celebration. The facilities are first-rate, the Blue Jackets are exciting and entertaining and the fans passionately support their team and our league. Our players, sponsors, media and guests are looking forward to in Columbus for All-Star activities.”
During his 1st intermission press conference, Commissioner Bettman said, “we’re thrilled to be here, and we wanted to let the city, the team and fans know that we’re honoring the promise and we’re excited to come,” Bettman said. “It was very important to us.”
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman then spoke at the press conference, “It’s an opportunity to show off the city to the world. The best hockey players in the world will be in the city of Columbus. We’ll roll out the red carpet. We’ll have a great time and people will know what the great city of Columbus is all about.” Mayor Coleman then quipped, “The commissioner made a promise, and that promise has been kept, As a politician, that’s always nice to hear.”
Bettman also mentioned during questioning during the press conference as to why the ASG wouldn’t be held in 2014. “The NHL does not have All-Star Games in years with Winter Olympics, so there won’t be one in 2014. The NHL has been preoccupied with the six outdoor games scheduled for this winter, but Blue Jackets club President Mike Priest was relentless and aggressive in his quest to have the All-Star Game be held in Columbus at the next opportunity.” Priest kept constant contact with league offices. Bettman added, further, “I will say, Mike was about as aggressive as you can be,” Bettman said.
The Columbus Sports Commission has estimated that the NHL All-Star weekend will generate $12 million in revenue for the city and $50 million in media exposure. Bettman also mentioned that the success of the NHL Entry Draft had a major impact in the decision to award Columbus with the 2015 All-Star Game. Per Bettman, “We had such a good time at the draft, we thought we’d come back through. We’ve always believed in Columbus. This is a great city, a great sports town, a place that can hold major events well.”
So, along with the changes in their on-ice direction and hopeful fortunes, optimism continues to reign in Columbus, Ohio.