The NHL is slumbering through late summer, but the arrival of training camps is peeking over the horizon.
It’s less than a month away and there’s reason for optimism in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have a new coach in Mike Babcock, a new top prospect in Adam Fantilli and a new slate of 82 games that will determine whether they contend for a playoff spot or not.
That schedule, of course, includes 41 road games. Each carries its own unique draw for those willing to schedule an NHL getaway, but here are the top five road trips for Blue Jackets fans to consider:
Watch the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament
This is a perfect pre-camp junket for watching the Blue Jackets’ top prospects compete against their peers.
Over the past few years, the tournament in Michigan has seen several teams leave to host their own camp or join others. That means the days of crowning a champion are over, and the Blue Jackets are forever entrenched in the top spot for all-time Traverse City titles.
Although there is no longer a championship on the line, there is an opportunity to watch hockey in a resort town for fans willing to make the drive or fly into Cherry Capital Airport.
Tickets are $15 a day general admission and each of the four teams involved will play three games.
The Blue Jackets will face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, Sept. 14 (3:30 p.m.), Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, Sept. 16 (3:30 p.m.) and Dallas Stars on Sunday, Sept. 17 (11 a.m.) to close out the event. Dallas and Toronto are the only teams scheduled to play Friday, Sept. 18, which means Blue Jackets fans who venture North can take a full day to explore.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a quick 40-minute drive from Traverse City and includes some of the most picturesque beach locations in North America. Northern Michigan also offers scenic golf courses and Traverse City has a lively downtown corridor with numerous dining or shopping opportunities. Make sure to sample the local cherry-flavored cuisine options in a city known as the “Cherry Capital of the World.”
Meet up with Columbus Blue Jackets for January road trip against Vancouver Canucks, Seattle Kraken
This one’s among the priciest destinations on the schedule, but watching the Jackets play on back-to-back days in the Pacific Northwest might be worth it.
They’ll face the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 27 at Rogers Arena and Seattle Kraken on Jan. 28 at Climate Pledge Arena as part of their annual Western Canada trip, which includes off days Jan. 26 and Jan. 28 that can be used for travel.
Weather in the northwest typically includes temperatures in the high 30s to mid-40s in late January, which is warm enough to enjoy sightseeing strolls in both cities. Take a gander through Vancouver’s Stanley Park on Friday or Saturday, then experience Seattle’s famed Pike Place Fish Market on Sunday or Monday.
Rogers Arena is nearly 30 years old, but the energy inside it for Canucks games is palpable. Climate Pledge Arena is technically 61 years old, since its foundation was the former Key Arena that once housed the Seattle Supersonics, but it got a full revamp for the Kraken and has state-of-the-art technology throughout.
Experience the 'Madhouse on Madison’ by watching Columbus Blue Jackets play Chicago Blackhawks
That should help the Blackhawks put more fans inside United Center, even though Chicago isn’t expected to contend for anything but next year’s lottery. That means tickets will likely be plentiful for the Blue Jackets' visit March 2.
Blue Jackets fans have a golden opportunity to enjoy a full weekend in Chicago, as no games are scheduled Friday or Sunday surrounding the game. So, hop on a quick flight or hop in the car for a five-hour trip to the Midwest’s biggest metropolitan hub.
Hotel rates may still be on the low side during the “off” season for tourism in Chicago, and there’s never a shortage of things to do there. Stroll along Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. the Magnificent Mile, take in a live show, check out a museum or enjoy a top-rated restaurant.
Then go cheer for Columbus against Bedard and the Blackhawks, who’ve acquired and signed former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno this summer.
Watch the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Vegas Golden Knights in Vegas, baby, Vegas!
Ever since the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season (2017-18), Blue Jackets fans have flocked to “Sin City” once a year.
If you haven’t yet, maybe it’s time to check this item off your NHL bucket list. The Golden Knights are the defending Stanley Cup champions, it’s a weekend trip to Vegas in late March and there’s nothing else in the NHL that comes close to the atmosphere for games at T-Mobile Arena.
It’s loud and flashy. The pregame “show” is fun and has just enough "cheese" to give it the feeling of a Vegas show. There’s a pregame siren that gets cranked by whichever celebrity the Golden Knights tab to be there for that game. It’s a total experience that all NHL fans should sample at least once.
This year, the Jackets play the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, March 22 in Denver before taking on Vegas the following night at T-Mobile Arena. The rest of the team’s trip takes them to Arizona and Pittsburgh, but fans can make it an action-packed Vegas weekend.
Help the Columbus Blue Jackets conclude their road slate against the Nashville Predators
Longtime Blue Jackets fans still recall the days of competing with the Nashville Predators in the Central Division, which provided multiple opportunities to watch hockey in the Music City.
Since Columbus moved to the Eastern Conference, that’s no longer the case. Outside of 2021, when the Blue Jackets and Predators were put back into the Central Division during the COVID-19 pandemic, the two teams only make one visit to each other’s arena.
The Blue Jackets will end a four-game trip April 13 at Bridgestone Arena to conclude their road schedule, which might be an important game if they're still in playoff contention. Bad things tend to happen to the Blue Jackets in Nashville, but that shouldn’t stop fans from heading to "Nashvegas" to watch them play.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 5 cool trips for Columbus Blue Jackets fans to consider