Thursday, February 4, 2010

An Irish Wake for Hitch's Coaching Tenure

Before we wade too deeply into the Claude Noel Era, let's take one final moment to appreciate the man who, in the words of the late John McConnell, was the "savior" of the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise.  That's right, the savior.  Ken Hitchcock took the mess that was the Doug MacLean era and, with the assistance of General Manager Scott Howson, re-molded a perennial losing franchise into a Stanley Cup playoff qualifier.

I don't know if Hitchcock's ancestry is Irish (this website suggests that there are a few Hitchcocks in Irish geneology), but Irish blood runs in my veins.  When an Irishman passes on, it's customary to hold an Irish wake. In an Irish wake, the first thing that the visitors do is mourn the loss.  I believe that we did that yesterday.  But an Irish wake has more, as this site suggests:
Even the most sorrowful mourner is inspired to raise a glass and remember the happiest of times in the life of the person who has passed.
I suggest we do the same as Ken Hitchcock brought plenty of joy to CBJ fans everywhere. Let's hold an Irish wake online, sharing our favorite memories of Hitch.

Please add your remembrances of Hitch in the comments.  I'll kick off the wake with a few fond thoughts...

I can't think about Hitchcock's Blue Jackets without recalling March 12, 2009, the night that the Jackets took on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide.  I was lucky enough to get tickets for that game, and I took my 8-ish year old, hockey playing, nephew.  I will never forget the excitement of the CBJ taking the eventual Stanley Cup champions to the limit...and winning in the shootout!  My nephew was literally standing on his seat for most of the game.  When a line shift resulted in Rick Nash on the ice, I heard the little man shriek, "GOOOOOO NASSSSSHHH!!!!!!!" next to me.  The game was tough, the Jackets were tougher (Mike Commodore gently lifting Malkin's helmet as Malkin's face planted into the crossbar of the goal - tasteless, granted, but well played by Commie).  And then the shootout.  Steve Mason, having already stopped 35 of 38 shots, had to stop both Malkin and Crosby.  And he did.  The place went nuts.  My nephew went nuts.  I went nuts.  His bedroom is now covered in CBJ colors and memorabilia.  Not sure it gets a lot better.

And then there's The Hitchionary.  'Nuff said.  Hitch has forever redefined the way we talk about hockey in Columbus.

The last one, and one I fully expect to hear more about this: April 23, 2009 - Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs first round against Detroit.  Yup, I was there.  Now, I've been to plenty of big time sporting events: A Super Bowl, a Fiesta Bowl, a MLB All-Star Game, more Notre Dame football and basketball than I can remember - but I have never been witness to as electric a sporting event as that game.  Doesn't matter that we lost.  The way that team hung in there against the defending Stanley Cup champs, especially in the second period of the game while the crowd willed them to goal after goal only to bite our nails while trying to hold on in the third was incredible.  I've never heard noise rain down upon me like that (it was the only sporting event to make my ears ring like I was at a rock concert) and will always remember the experience of being there live.

All three of these memories happened because of Ken Hitchcock.  He made some incredible things happen in Columbus, and we all should lift our glasses to him.

What are your favorite memories?


  1. Did you have to steal all of the good memories?

  2. I'll never forget hearing a game described as, "hard-bizarre," and understanding completely.


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