Being a Columbus Blue Jackets fan is not easy. It doesn't come with the same built in guarantees that being a Buckeye fan comes with.
There isn't always someone in your office you can talk hockey with. There is no promise your favorite watering hole with have the Blue Jackets game on any of their big screen TVs. And there will be nights hockey gets pushed to the tail-end of or even completely out of local sportscasts.
This is not college sports, this is the National Hockey League in Columbus, Ohio.
Granted, Ohio State's tradition is generations old. The Buckeyes have won championships in virtually all of their 36 varsity sports. The athletes in the Scarlet and Grey have earned their following to be sure.
But every once in awhile, someone else gets a spot at the table.
This week the Blue Jackets get that distinction.
The Jackets have won 5 straight games. They haven't lost a game in regulation since February 24th.
Monday, their starting goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky was named the NHL's number one star of the week for his stellar play between the pipes.
The Jackets elevated themselves from the league's basement to within 4 points of a playoff berth.
The NHL's own website moved the Blue Jackets into the power rankings for the first time all season
But more importantly, people started talking about the team in ways and places usually reserved for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State's basketball team has won five and a row and is headed for the Big Ten Tournament as the number two seed. Yet, the first question I got when I arrived at the gym this morning was; "What's happening with the Jackets?"
Two more questions followed quickly from two different people.
"Where'd they get this goalie from?"
And, my favorite question of the day, "Who lit a fire under the ice hockey?" Pretty sure that gentleman wasn't sure of the name of the city's only major professional sports franchise.
Doesn't matter. He was talking about them. The whole city was talking about them Monday morning right there at the starting line to March Madness.
At Polaris Fashion Place, a salesperson in the men's department asked me about the team success. He knew Bobrovsky had been playing better but not much beyond that.
Doesn't matter. He was talking about Sergei Bobrovsky not Aaron Craft.
Down the corridor of the mall, I was so shocked by this scene outside The Buckeye Room that I had to take a picture of it.
The sad part is, it actually looked like this when I walked up.
I had to move the Blackhawks shirt.
What's gotten into this town?
Doesn't matter. What does matter is the Blue Jackets know that winning is the final piece of the puzzle.
Columbus sports fans want a winner. They demand a winner. Indeed after decades of Ohio State dominance in the 'Shoe, they expect the team they support to win and win big.
The Blue Jackets modest winning streak is not enough to change the sports culture of an entire city or state but it is enough to begin to change the culture within the organization.
It has to begin with commitment of ownership to build a winner. It needs to continue throughout the coaching staff and filter directly to the players that the only way they will get people to pay attention to them in this town is to win consistantly.
Not just an occasional win over the Sharks or a shoot-out loss to the Blackhawks.
They need to beat up on rival Detroit for an entire season. (They can check that one off now)
They need to win a playoff series.
They need to develop and retain star players who are committed to the cause.
But most of all they need to win.
I hope they get that 6th straight win and many more wins before the season is out.
Maybe then the guy in the gym can learn the name of the team that's had a fire lit beneath it,
Here's something that has never happened before. The Blue Jackets in the NHL Power rankings.
These are not the same old Blue Jackets. How can you tell?
Ten one goal losses that's how. The Jackets have been infinitely more competitive than they've been in the last two of three seasons.
Ten one goal losses in 21 games.
The best team in the NHL right now is clearly the Chicago Black Hawks. The Jackets have lost to the Hawks three times. Each time by one goal.
These are not the same old Blue Jackets.
This is a team that has to be perfect every night. A bad pass or a stupid penalty can be the difference between winning and losing.
In Chicago Friday night, a bad penalty contributed to the Hawks first goal and a bad pass contributed to their third goal.
The Jackets have been competitive and carried a legimate to chance to win into the third period of all but about three games.
They are not the same old Blue Jackets.
They trade Rick Nash to the Rangers for Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. Anisimove has missed 5 of the last seven games due to injury. Dubinsky has missed the last six with a sprained knee.
The defensive paring of James Wisniewski and Jackson Johnson didn't play in Chicago and won't play Sunday again Colorado. Wiz is out for a month with a broekn bone in his right foot. Johnson has missed the last three games due to a shoulder injury.
Defenseman John Moore hurt himself in practice Friday in Chicago. That's right, practice. That meant calling up yet another young defenseman from Springfield.
Eight players have played for both the Blue Jackets and the minor league team in Springfield since the NHL resumed play in January. That makes the youngest team in the NHL even younger.
The Jackets play Colorado Sunday afternoon at 3:00. That means no morning skate for the team.
My suggestion for each of the Jackets would be to take advantage of this rare opportunity to stop into the house or worship of their choice.
What this team needs more than anything else right now is a prayer.
Here is the proposed NHL realignment first reported by Hockey Night in Canada. It would be a tremendous benefit to the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fan base.
Let's hope this time it goes through.