Friday, June 23, 2000

Columbus aims to bring NHL to whole region




By John P. Wise
Enquirer contributor

        The Columbus Blue Jackets have worked tirelessly to make sure their fan base extends beyond Ohio's capital city.

        Team representatives attended about 25 Cyclones and Mighty Ducks games. They also regularly visited Cleveland, Dayton and Indianapolis, among several other minor-league cities.

AT A GLANCE
  • Home: Nationwide Arena (capacity: 18,500).
  • Coach: To be named within the next week.
  • Colors: Blue and red
  • TV: Fox Sports Net
  • Web site: columbusbluejackets.com
  • Tickets: TicketMaster
        But the new NHL franchise has yet to play its first game. Columbus will participate in the league's expansion draft today.

        The staff said it sold a fair amount of tickets with all those promotions — about 40 in all — at regional

        minor-league games. More important, David Paitson said, he and his colleagues got out the message that NHL hockey was coming to the Buckeye State.

        “We sold some season tickets in those places,” said Paitson, the team's vice president in charge of marketing. “But that's just icing on the cake. We made all those trips to increase the awareness of the Blue Jackets. We want everyone to know who we are.”

        Once the minor-league seasons ended, the team had to think of new ways to market itself. This weekend is a good example.

        Six bars in the Columbus area are staging draft parties today. The expansion selections will be announced at 5p.m. That's when the six bars will get the live feed from Ohio News Network, and patrons can learn the names of their newest hockey heroes. Six different radio stations are co-sponsoring the event with the bars.

        Also, the newest edition of the team's quarterly magazine, Blue Jackets Beat, went out last week.

        “The timing is perfect,” team spokesperson Gary Kohn said. “About 80 percent of this quarter's issue is draft-related.”

        Paitson said he's not afraid of the fight for Cincinnati-based hockey fans, though with two minor-league teams in the same city, there's rarely a weekend without at least one home game here.

        “I was at a Dayton Bombers game and saw Cyclones and Mighty Ducks fans there,” Paitson said. “We think a lot of people will want to buy some tickets and come up from Cincinnati — maybe for a whole weekend — to see a game or two. They'll probably do it two or three times this season.”

        The Blue Jackets will play an exhibition game at the Cincinnati Gardens in September.

Newest NHL clubs take shape today
       



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