Packing the car this past Friday morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect over the next 72 hours. Would my trusted car break down on the trip to Columbus? Would the Central Division Tweet-up (CDTU) crash and burn before ever lifting off the ground? Would Columbus be more that I initially heard about it?
Most of you know me as the eternal optimist. However when it comes to events that I have a hand in planning, I tend to be extremely realistic. Alexander Pope probably said it best when he said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” So, with bated breath, I embarked for the inaugural CDTU and to finally introduce myself to the city of Columbus.
Now, Columbus is about 370 or so miles from Nashville, and for the most part a fairly quick drive (the only part that seems dull is the 70+ miles between Cincinnati and Columbus…which is all corn), however I left a bit earlier from Nashville so I could get a little shopping in before I began the final planning stages of Saturday’s “big” event. I’m a rather big Ohio State fan and, this being my first ever trip to Columbus, I had to stop to buy some gear.
Once the CDTU crew all convened at the home of Rick Gethin (co-founder of the CDTU event) later that evening, we all had a chance to get a sneak peak of the official video of the event and talk about Saturday’s schedule to make sure we were all on the same page. Our goals? $1,200 dollars earned to be donated to the 6 charities supported by the CDTU: All 5 of the Central Division foundations and the NHL Alumni Association. In Rick’s mind, he felt we could do quite a bit more than that, but I felt that the number should be kept at a manageable level for this first year because we really didn’t know what to expect in terms of attendance.
Saturday morning rolled around and the three of us (Rick Gethin, Tom Larrow [creator of the video], and myself) all rolled over to the Buffalo Wild Wings in Grandview Heights about a half a mile from the Ohio State University in downtown Columbus. The doors opened at 10am for us, the Jacket Backers (who graciously volunteered to help us organize our raffle an run it as well), the Arch City Army (Columbus’ equivalent to the Cellblock in Nashville), and Nick Johnson (The Blue Jackets in-arena DJ) to come in and set up shop for the CDTU. While the event didn’t start until noon, we had fans beginning to show up right as the doors opened to the public for the restaurant at 11am.
We had 40 people already by the time noon hit and the event officially launched, however the number wouldn’t grow much from that over the next 4 hours. While we were hoping for fans from all over the Central Division, only 3 fanbases could make it to Columbus: Nashville, Detroit, and of course Columbus. Yet, we still received well wishes from fans of the other two fanbases and their condolences on not being able to attend.
By 4pm, all the prizes had been raffled off and the event was winding down. The two items I had donated out of my personal collection (a Brendan Shanahan signed puck and signed Team Canada jersey) were pretty popular raffle items but by far the MOST popular items were the Pekka Rinne-signed Nashville Predators away jersey and the NHL Alumni Association’s signed jersey (28 retired players, 4 hall of famers). Those alone had to have had at least 100 raffle tickets in their buckets.
The two most important moments of the event, though, came when 10TV (WBNS-Columbus, CBS affiliate) came out to record moments of the CDTU and actually interview myself and Rick and when members of the marketing department of the Columbus Blue Jackets themselves made the trip out to see what all was going on. While it wasn’t so important that we were interviewed, it was important that we had a chance to talk about the event itself an what this was all about. You can see the interviews and clips from the event itself below:
Marcus Stephenson (Digital Marketing Manager) and Rob Mixer (Digital Content and Community Manager) both made it abundantly clear to us that the Blue Jackets were on board with the CDTU and would love to help with it in the future, which proved to both Rick and myself that we had a decent idea with this tweet-up all along.
4pm rolled around and the event winded down. The Jacket Backers counted up the money raised from the raffle and, while we had only made roughly $926 from the raffle itself, they made sure we made our goal and rounded it up by donating $274 from their organization themselves. With the $1200 goal met, everyone packed up and moved the party down to the R Bar in the arena district to celebrate a days worth of fun and hockey.
I always hear people question the legitimacy of the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise and their fanbase, however I’ll never question it again. I now have a soft spot for the Blue Jackets and their fans, who are just as loyal and die hard as any other fanbase in the entire National Hockey League. The Jacket Backers made me feel like one of their own, a part of their extended family during my time up in Columbus, and that’s what this entire event was all about.
It wasn’t about team allegiance or who was better than who. It was about family. It was about celebrating the sport we all love and we all have in common. It was about finding common ground between each other and laughing at our different misfortunes. It was asking a serious question about another fanbases view on a particular play during the season and getting a serious answer or question in return.
You don’t and won’t see this in the regular season and especially the playoffs. All types of fans not trading insults but sharing food and drink instead, coming together to unite under one banner and raise money for charities. Doesn’t quite get much better than that.
The planning for next year’s CDTU is already underway. The 2013 CDTU has been placed in our wonderful city of Nashville and we have a chance to impress the other fanbases coming in for it. We don’t know the venue location yet, and the date isn’t settled yet, but you have to legitimately think about the possibilities:
If 50 people can draw $1200 for charities…how many could 500 bring in? The math is there and the writing is now on the wall. Nashville fans pride themselves on being great members of the hockey community and being loud and proud on gamenights. So now they will have the chance to walk the walk.
We’ll continually update you on the 2013 CDTU as things are planned and fall into place, but for right now plan on coming out next summer for a Central Division fan fest in Music City USA.
You can catch the official video for the 2012 CDTU below, which was created by Tom Larrow (@Skraut_ on Twitter). The fact that this man doesn’t make these videos for an NHL team for a living is egregious:
If you have any questions at all about the CDTU or would be interested in sponsorships of next year’s event, feel free to email myself at Kristopher.Martel@thepredatorial.com for more information