To this day, the NHL takes a lot of flack for the “Thank You Fans” messages written on the ice after the 2004-05 lockout ended. They seemed hollow, perfunctory; an insufficient gesture after a season was lost.
Yet, for some reason, the message resonates when it hangs on the back of a Columbus Blue Jackets player in 2013.
The Blue Jackets wore these No. 1 “THANK YOU FANS” jerseys during warm-ups before their home opener against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night.
(Cue 29 other fan bases snarking, “Shouldn’t it say ‘THANK YOU FAN’?”)
The jerseys were to be raffled off during the game.
Faced with a ton of adversity as a franchise – the loss of Rick Nash, the worst record in the NHL last season – and a dwindling season-ticket base, the Jackets went the extra mile to sell out Nationwide Arena for the opener. Columbus offered fans “2 for 1” tickets, free T-shirts, a magnet and free food vouchers.
The NHL urged its teams to offer apologies and reparations to fans after the lockout, rather than offering some League wide initiative like the scribbling on the ice in 2005. The Blue Jackets’ special warm-up jerseys are one of the most creative, and seemingly sincere, expressions of that remorse this season.