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The Sports Page: The Arch City Army Wants You!

 Corey Barnes The Sports Page: The Arch City Army Wants You!
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The Arch City Army Wants YOU!

There is a lot of noise coming out of Section 227 in Nationwide Arena. Though Columbus has been struggling with attendance in the National Hockey League this season, a dedicated group of fans are endeavoring to move the dial at CBJ games. They call themselves the Arch City Army and their goal is simple: Support the Columbus Blue Jackets. “We want to change the atmosphere in Nationwide Arena with chants… to make it a different style than what people are used to and have been used to for the past ten years,” said Brian Klein, one of the founders of the ACA. Though such organized fan gathering may seem out of place to the casual hockey fan, international fans recognize that this is not uncommon overseas. In hockey-crazed countries such as Russia, the dedication and fandom of local rooters rivals that of European fútbol fans. Klein, who is also a member of the Crew-rooting Hudson Street Hooligans, wants to bring soccer-level energy to Nationwide Arena.

Those souls who enlist will notice that the power lies in the hands of the people. “We want to keep it organic,” Klein said. Though some Columbus oriented chants (“We love ya, we love ya…”) are of course in play, the Arch City Army wants the noise from their section to be spontaneous enough to adjust to the on-ice action. Though they have only been at one game so far, people are beginning to take notice. Since going live on January 1st, over fifty fans have joined up online and are counted on the roster of official members. Also, there are nearly 200 members on the Arch City Army Facebook page. Members of the Blue Jackets front office are aware of this excitement as well. They are all for the idea and there are plans to work with the ACA to help alleviate future costs associated with attending games (though action on this may not be immediate).

Fans interested in joining can enlist at archcityarmy.com. There is a twenty dollar enrollment fee but that sum garners the member a free scarf and ticket discounts on games the Army is attending. Additionally the membership will be valid through the 2011-2012 season. The ACA will be reporting for duty February 9th versus the San Jose Sharks and February 16th vs. the Los Angeles Kings. The goal for the rest of season and next year is simple: Expand. Klein mentioned that the Army is in discussion with local businesses in an attempt to gain sponsorship and perhaps arrange a trip to support the Jackets at an away game or two. With Columbus ranked in the bottom five in NHL attendance and terrifying rumors of relocation – shudder – on the wind, a dedicated group of diehards who can bring some publicity to the club can only help. They understand what it means to Carry the Flag.

Columbus Blue Jackets Week in Review:

The recurring theme for Columbus coming out of the All-Star Break was that they had to start strong to make a legitimate playoff push. Well, as the artist Meat Loaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad. Columbus fell to the Blackhawks but was able to handle the Red Wings and Oilers in three games this past week in an effort to strengthen their playoff résumé.

Tuesday’s game against Chicago was a hard fought, high scoring affair. The turning point came late in the second period. The Jackets trailed 4-3 but had a man advantage against the ‘Hawks. On multiple occasions they tried to reset play to the point but the puck kept slipping out of the zone. Near the end of the power play, Chicago’s Jonathon Toews intercepted the puck, maneuvered down ice, and slipped a shot past Columbus keeper Steve Mason. That two minute stretch was a microcosm of this season: Columbus had multiple chances to convert an opportunity but self-damaging mistakes repeatedly hindered them. Mason did not return for the third period but Matthew Garon equally struggled against the Chicago attack, allowing two more goals. By the time the final horn sounded, Columbus found themselves on the wrong end of a 7-4 decision.

Coming off a loss to Chicago, there are few tougher challenges for an NHL team than to go into Detroit and knock off the Red Wings at home. Steve Mason does not back down in the face of a challenge. One game after getting pulled midway through the contest, Mason pitched a 34 save shutout – the 17th of his career – in an impressive 3-0 Blue Jackets win. The Unionmen netted a goal in each period with contributions coming from Antoine Vermette, Jared Boll, and Andrew Murray respectively. Seeing Mason’s impressive response to the previous game should give confidence to those fans who get nervous seeing #1 between the pipes.

The next night, the Blue Jackets returned to friendly ice to do battle with the perpetually-cellar-dwelling Edmonton Oilers. A full house of 18,370 saw the Oilers take a 2-0 lead in the first period. R.J. Umberger refused to take such a showing lying down. Later that same period he found the net to cut the deficit in half. Umberger later assisted a Kristian Huselius goal that tied the score during the second period. A little over five minutes into the final period, Edmonton regained the lead. However, Columbus understood the importance of this (and every) game and kept fighting. Umberger re-tied the game with less than seven minutes to go and had an assist on Kristian Huselius’ second goal which proved to be the game winner. R.J. finished with four points on the night and had a part in each CBJ goal. This win was especially important considering it came before a full house. With a steep uphill climb ahead of them, the Jackets need as many Ohioans as possible pulling for them each night.

At the end of this week the Blue Jackets are 25-22-5, have 55 points, are in thirteenth place in the Western Conference, and sit five games out of the 8th and final playoff seed. The next week will prove challenging for the Pride of Nationwide as they will play four games in the next seven days – a tough matchup with the Penguins in the Steel City, home affairs with the Sharks and Avalanche, and a trip to Dallas next Sunday. With points at a premium in the NHL’s premier conference, CBJ needs to get at least one point in each game to just keep pace.

Corey Barnes is a third year at The Ohio State University studying business. He hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a profound understanding of sports suffering and mediocrity. In addition to this column, he also writes sports things at buckeyenerd.tumblr.com and can be followed on The Twitter @Corey_Barnes.

Blue Jackets game photos from bluejackets.nhl.com.

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