One of the last stories I posted before my brief leave of absence — to move 5,000 miles from my home in Tampa — was the unveiling of the Columbus Blue Jackets third jersey. That story then proceeded to take on a life of its own while I was getting settled in Seattle.
If you're all about superstition in sport, then this story I'm about to recount is certainly for you. It's been said the Blue Jackets were cursed by the cannon jersey. Why?
It started with the official unveiling at a mall in Columbus while the players were on the road facing the Islanders — who, by the way, were 0-11-3 in the 14 games leading up. The Jackets took a 2-1 lead into the intermission. Then the jerseys saw the light of day for the first time between periods back at the mall. It only took 51 seconds of the second period for the Isles to tie the game.
A team that hadn't won a game in over a month proceeded to force the Blue Jackets into overtime. It was a W for Columbus, but only just. Still, it put the Blue Jackets atop the Central Division. So it was back home to take on the perennial division champ, the Red Wings.
The jersey made it's debut on Nov. 26, as scheduled, as the Jackets hosted the Wings. But Columbus was edged out, 2-1, ending a five-game winning streak. Two nights later, they brought the new threads to Detroit. Lost again, 4-2.
Almost a week later, the third jersey was on the schedule again. This time, the Blue Jackets were demolished by the Sabres in Buffalo, 5-0. And the next night, back in Ohio's capital city, the Penguins handed them a 7-2 thumping.
Head coach Scott Arniel had enough of this. The cannon sweater was back on the schedule a week later, Dec. 11, when his team was hosting the Rangers. Yet they skated out in their standard-issue home attire.
Columbus Dispatch writer Michael Arace quoted Arniel as saying, “I just thought our red pants against their red pants would look really cool.”
Sure, coach. It wasn't the 0-4 record in the third jerseys. It was your sense of style. Still, the Jackets came away with a 3-1 victory that night. It broke a streak of seven games in which Columbus couldn't close the deal in regulation time.
On the heels of the swirling rumors that superstition was behind the last-minute change, the third jersey schedule was mysteriously removed from the team's website. But it remained on Icethetics for fans to be reminded of the team's original intentions. So we watched and waited for Dec. 18, the next third jersey date on the calendar.
Sure enough, the Blue Jackets wore the alternates against the Stars. If they had killed the jersey, it would've been bad. For one thing, there was all the publicity surrounding the unveiling. And let's not forget the boatloads of fans who bought them. But Dallas won. That made Columbus 0-5 in the new duds.
The losing streak finally came to an end on Dec. 27, when the Blue Jackets beat the Wild in a shootout. And four nights later, they closed out 2010 with an overtime win against Ottawa, all while wearing the third jersey. But they still haven't managed a regulation win in the alternate sweater.
Is the cannon jersey really cursed? If so, their next chance to break it is Jan. 14 against the Red Wings. But let's not forget this is a team that struggled all month, regardless of what uniform they wore. And the remaining dates originally scheduled for the third jersey are back on the team's website.
So, now I have to ask: Do the hockey gods have something against the cannon? Against it being the umpteenth dark blue alternate jersey in the NHL? Or is it just getting a bad reputation for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?