The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs were the first time I seriously followed a team in the NHL postseason. Every other time I’d been invested in the whole event, but never quite at this level. Over the course of five days and in two cities, I managed to see three games of the Blue Jackets’ first round series. I’ve collected some of my thoughts, and this will kick off some retrospective coverage of the Columbus season. Part 1 spans April 19 and 20.
Day 1: April 19
When they write textbook definitions of a “perfect day,” that ambiguous “they” have this one in mind. A long weekend washed by golden rays and the perfect roads ahead. I-70 (and I-470) are glorious with weather like this. The undulating hills, the fantastic curves around Wheeling, probably my favorite place to drive. We’re hurtling through the American countryside, observing the slight hint of green in the background as leaves begin to bud and pop. Any other day, this is the highlight. Today begins a journey through fandom and a bit of madness.
We left Columbus around noon and made good time. No stops, just straight through. 70 (and 470), up 79, onto 376, and into the city. Pittsburgh is a dramatic city, and its sudden appearance hasn’t grown old yet (although I’ve only been 4 times). You swoop down a hill, cut through a tunnel, and then wham. Bridges, stadiums, picturesque skyline. Hill, hill, hill, darkness, Major American City. HBO didn’t even have to try to make the entry magical. I love it, but today I’m not here to spread that admiration toward the local sports teams.
A few turns later and we’re at the hotel, the check-in process started. It’s already clear I’m not among friends with all the gold and black coating every person walking around. This is Pittsburgh, after all. I’m carrying my Jeff Carter jersey (I’ll wear it later) and wandering the lobby while Jason picks up room keys. And then, for a moment, there’s Fox Sports Ohio broadcaster Dave Maetzold walking through the first floor. He spots my jersey (and one of another Columbus supporter nearby), and leans toward the receptionist. “You take good care of those Blue Jackets fans,” he tells her. He smirks, and I give a thumbs up. I suppose this is a positive moment, right?