January 13, 2011
One Columbus Blue Jackets fan declared they would give $50 to Easter Seals for a victory and $10 for "every exaggerated goal celebration."
Another pledged $20 to House Rabbit Society "in honor of my evil rabbit, Lord Hoppington" should the team win. Still another dedicated $20 to the American Cancer Society in honor of his former neighbors at Blue Jackets home games, the late Bob and Judy Camp.
Tyler Schweinfurth had no idea what he had started. As the charitable "bounties" for a game-winning goal against Detroit this weekend rolled in through social media, the 25-year-old Blue Jackets fan marveled at how one comment had blossomed into a remarkable moment of positive reinforcement between a fan base and its struggling team.
"We should put money up on the board again," he told us Wednesday night. "If we beat Detroit in one of these games this weekend, maybe we can turn this thing around."
So with the Detroit Red Wings coming to town on Friday night, it was time to Put Money On The Board to inspire a victory. Fans have reportedly pledged over $3,000 (!) to various causes to make it happen ... and the Jackets have taken notice.
Schweinfurth started this fan movement with a tweet following the Jackets' latest loss: 4-3 at home to the Phoenix Coyotes, who rallied for two goals in the third period. It was part of what he called a "January death spiral" for the team, which hasn't won a game in 2011 and is 13th in the Western Conference with a 20-20-3 record.
That struggle inspired this tweet:
"Money on the Board" is a long-standing tradition in hockey locker rooms, as a player or coach will tape money on a whiteboard as extra motivation to score a game-winning goal or win a key game. (The irony of this current fan movement, of course, being that the NHL has just fined the Toronto Maple Leafs for their coach putting "money on the board" for a victory.)
Flash back to this time last year during the infamous "Death Spiral". I can't remember who started it, but a Jackets fan "put money on the board" for a game winning goal in any game. This ended by Freddy Modin scoring an overtime winner against the Wings in late December. This is where the idea (plus the long standing locker room tradition) of putting money on the board for Friday came from. I, as well all Jackets fans, are tired of being pushed around by the Red Wings. This is my way of motivating the Jackets. I feel that if the boys can pull out one, or both, of the games this weekend, this season can be saved. As we said last year at this time: IT STARTS NOW!
Lori Schmidt, a reporter for 97.1 FM The Fan in Columbus, has taken up the cause. The hashtag #MoneyOnTheBoard contains days-worth of tweets from fans donating time, money and even blood to charitable causes in the name of a game-winning goal for the Jackets. Schmidt tweeted Thursday morning that the tally is over $3,000 as far as donations.
And they're not just donations from hockey fans: Schweinfurth said that when he explained the campaign to his father, who doesn't follow the Blue Jackets, he simply said, "I got $100 for you."
What makes this season's pledge drive special is that the Blue Jackets are aware of it before this weekend's games against the Wings. Coach Scott Arniel said to the Columbus Dispatch, "That's passion, that's true fans right there."
Darr has put out a bucket in the bar where fans can contribute. If the team wins Friday the money will go to the Blue Jackets Foundation. A loss will send funds to a local food pantry. The Jackets actually will put pledges made by 6 p.m. Friday on the dressing room board ...
"The fans have been good here and they have stuck with us in Columbus," Umberger said. "I give them all the credit in the world. The want to beat Detroit bad, and we want to, too."
This outpouring of support from fans comes during a moment in the franchise's history when that support has been in question. Empty seats are found at home games, unless it's a group of enemy fans buying them. Apathy has set in where passion existed during the Jackets' first playoff appearance two seasons ago.
Schweinfurth said that having the fans make a loud public statement about their passion for the team wasn't the primary motivation for the #MoneyOnTheBoard campaign, but it's clearly a benefit.
"I just wanted the team to know that the fans are behind them," he said. "Even if the team is losing, we're still behind them. Maybe this'll spark something."