The phones at R Bar in Columbus, Ohio, have been ringing more often than usual this week.
“We’re already getting calls to make sure we have the Jackets game on New Year’s Eve,” co-owner Michael Darr said Thursday.
“Jackets” is short for Blue Jackets, the hottest team in the NHL and professional sports. The buzz surrounding the team in Columbus is beginning to bleed union blue into Ohio State’s dominance of the local sports market.
The calls Darr and his staff fielded this week wanted confirmation the Blue Jackets TV time would not be interupted by Ohio State football when the team's big games overlap for about an hour Saturday night. The Blue Jackets face the Wild at 5 p.m. and the Buckeyes appear in the College Football Playoff at 6 p.m.
The Blue Jackets won a franchise record 14th straight game Thursday night beating Winnipeg 5-3 to move into first place in the league with a 25-5-4 record.
“Everyone is talking about it,” Darr said. “We haven’t seen this since we went to the playoffs in 2009. Once they beat Pittsburgh and Montreal, it became the talk of the town. I’ve heard more coverage on the radio than I’ve ever heard. More people are coming into the bar to talk hockey.
“The hype is there. … The city is engaged.”
Todd Jones, senior writer at the Columbus Dispatch, said “Columbus has really taken to the team again” after “years of failure drained away a lot of the fans.
“This amazing run by the Blue Jackets has filled the home arena again. The team has sold out the past three home game, which I believe is the first time they've sold out three straight since 2007.”
Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch columnist, wrote last week “The text message on my phone this week came from a sports radio station in Toledo requesting that I talk about the Blue Jackets. I had to look twice. Not the Buckeyes? Well, also the Buckeyes, the text went on to say. They’re winning, too. Too? This is significant. Ten victories in a row. Fringe fans in and outside the Arch City — people who catch up on hockey only a few times a year — are beginning to notice what is happening at Nationwide Arena. The niche is growing, even if it still resembles a bandwagon.”
Xcel Energy Center should sell out Saturday night when the Blue Jackets go for 15 straight against the second-hottest team in sports, the Minnesota Wild. The Wild extended its win streak to 12 games beating the New York Islanders 6-4 Thursday night.
The streak will end for one team Saturday.
The game is being billed as a historic clash of streaking teams. It will be the first time in NHL history a pair of teams with streaks of this length are facing off against one another.
Ticket prices as of Friday morning on secondary market websites Ticket King, StubHub, and Ticket IQ range from a low of $194 to a high of $534.
The Wild shrugged off the significance of Saturday’s matchup, labeling it just “another game.” That is easy to say, but the atmosphere around Xcel Energy Center and on the ice Saturday should match the intensity of a playoff game. There is history on the line.