Despite their team being one loss away from elimination at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the enthusiasm of Columbus Blue Jackets fans hasn’t wavered. The “5th Line” started lining up on Sunday night for $40 Game 6 tickets that were going to be released on Monday at 5 p.m.
They brought tents and wore ponchos as heavy rains fell – such is life for the die-hards. But for some of these fans, their insane loyalty was rewarded with an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime visit from a Blue Jackets player.
Forward Cam Atkinson made a surprise appearance at the Nationwide Arena line at 10 p.m. on Sunday night. His girlfriend noticed via Twitter that fans were lining up for tickets; Atkinson and his father decided to head down and show their gratitude.
“There were nine of us in line, and around the corner comes Cam Atkinson with some [autographed] sticks with his dad,” said Grant Flood, a 28 year old Jackets fan, told the Blue Jackets website.
“He took some pictures … and hit the ATM.”
Yes, Atkinson wasn’t just offering moral support, he was offering financial gratitude: He took out $400 from his bank account to buy the first 10 people in line their Game 6 tickets.
Which is undeniably awesome.
"If they're going to join the battle like we do, I might as well return the favor," Atkinson told NHL.com. "The fact that fans were going to camp out for tickets, I thought was pretty special. It was a cool moment."
Win or lose on Tuesday night, it’s been mission accomplished for the Blue Jackets.
We’ve always said you make new fans and cement the ones you have by having them live and die with your team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Jackets’ long-suffering faithful finally experienced playoff success on their home ice, as well as failure. They feel closer to this group of players than they ever have. And it’s a two-way bond: The Blue Jackets have fed off the intense home crowd energy, and little gestures like that of Atkinson reinforce their appreciation.
Win or lose, this is has been the most important few weeks in franchise history, and something the fans will never forget. Especially the ones attending Game 6 on Cam Atkinson’s dime.