Stand By Me: A Blue Jackets Story
Rick Nash was 24 going on 25 first time he saw the playoffs. It happened in the spring of 2009, a long time ago. He was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets. There were only 25 men on the roster, but to Nash it was the whole world. This is a story of a hockey team trying to get back to the post-season.
The call came from James Wisniewski early one Friday morning; he told Nash that their general manager, Scott Howson, was assembling a small crew to head out looking for glory. He wasn’t quite sure what Wisniewski was doing making the call, after all, Nash the captain of the team. Anyway, he told the overpaid defenseman that he'd be happy to meet up at the Blue Point Diner on the outskirts of Columbus to talk about this quest.
Rick Nash enters the Blue Point Diner and Scott Howson waves him over to a table where he sits with Wisniewski and noted celebrity hockey fan Wil Wheaton.
Rick Nash: So I hear you wanna take a run at glory again, eh Scotty?
Scott Howson: That’s right. I think we’ve got all we need here to find it, too. I left Steve Mason out of this crew on purpose, so that should give us a puncher’s chance at finding what we’re looking for.
James Wisniewski: Here’s the deal. We got word that glory’s been stashed away in a wooded area some 25 miles north of here, all we gotta do is locate it and she’s ours.
Howson: Now I’m not trying to alarm you, but I’ve had a feeling that I’ve been followed here. ..
A waitress placed a cocktail in front of Howson with a napkin. Written on the napkin in pen is a message: “meet me behind the diner in 5 minutes, you better bring some answers”.
Wheaton informed Howson that he’s carrying a gun, and that he’ll tag along with him behind the Blue Point for some backup. The guys made their way to the backdoor, with no idea of the trouble that lurked beyond it.
Wheaton let out a blood curdling scream, and Howson snarled at controversial NHL player agent Allan Walsh who stands before them.
Howson: Walsh, what the hell are you doing here?
Allan Walsh: The more important question, Scott, is why isn’t Derick Brassard included in your little search party?
Howson: Listen, whatever your beef with Scott Arniel was vanished with him. I’ve got no problem with Derick, but you know damn well he doesn’t have what it takes to run with this crew.
Walsh: Oh really? I’m going to float this notion to my 16,000 Twitter followers and see what they think. You ain’t heard the last of me.
With Walsh neutralized, the guys hit the back roads of Ohio in search of a trip to the playoffs. They’d soon discover that Walsh wasn’t the only obstacle that would cross their path.
Nash and Wisniewski got into an argument on the best route to the mysterious resting place of glory. Nash stated over and over again that the old train bridge would cause more problems than it was worth, but Wisniewski knew it was the most logical passage way to their destination. They held a vote to determine their next step, and Nash was overruled 3-1. The old train bridge it would be.
Wisniewski and Howson made their way across the bridge fairly quickly, while Nash and Wheaton took their time and carefully trudged their way across. As they reached the midway point, they could sense some vibrations in the distance and Nash caught wind of a familiar voice shouting an all too familiar refrain.
As the guys picked up their pace, it became more clear: “I drafted Rick Nash first overall in 2002!”
Howson: Is that who I think it is?
Nash: (Visibly panicking) I’m sorry guys; I can’t shake him no matter how hard I try. That’s no ordinary train... It’s THE DOUG MACLEAN TRAIN!
Luckily, Doug MacLean managed to derail his own train. Nash and Wheaton escaped with little more than a few scratches.
Howson’s crew closed in on their final destination late Saturday afternoon. The general feeling was that nothing could stop them from attaining their goal, especially after escaping the dangers presented by Walsh and MacLean.
Wisniewski: Do you think we’ll make it?
Howson: I can’t think of anything that could stop us now. C’mon, glory should be in the bushes just over here...
Nash and Wisniewski located a small mound of dirt and leaves and started digging it up, all the while believing glory rested beneath it.
Wisniewski removed the final layers of dirt and couldn’t believe what lay on the ground in front of his eyes.
Nash: Isn’t that our old coach, Scott Arniel? Is he dead?
Wisniewski: Ask him what he knows about our 4-on-4 scoring...
Nash: Scotty, what do you know about the Blue Jackets in 4-on-4 situations?
Scott Arniel: “................”
Nash: My God, it is him! Oh no, what are we gonna do?
Jeff Carter emerges from the bushes along with Mike Richards and another one of his cronies.
Jeff Carter: You’re gonna turn around, get the fuck out of here and not say a word about this to anyone?
Nash: Did you kill our coach?!
Carter: No more than you did Rick, no more than you did.
Howson: What are you planning to do with that knife?
Carter: I’m cutting ties with you, you, and you and is that Wesley Crusher?
Wil Wheaton: Yeah, I’m just a hockey fan; I have no quarrel with you Carter.
Mike Richards: Tell 'em how it's gonna be Jeff.
Carter: I want a trade. Send me to any other team in league, save for Winnipeg, regardless of the offer. I'm out. Done. I've had enough of this pathetic shit show here in Columbus.
Howson: But we're prepared to pay you through the year 2022!
Carter: I said I'm done here.
Howson: Rick, you'll stand by me, can you try and talk some sense into him?
Nash: I don't know Scott, I kinda like where Jeff's going with this. Could you trade me too?
Howson: Good Lord, what have I done here? I'm going to lose my job.
Wisniewski: I'll stick around Scotty; you know nobody's taking my contract anyway.
It turned out Scott Arniel wasn't dead, but just a terrible coach. Howson's gang never found what they were looking for. In the end he decided that shopping his superstars was the best plan, and it might even save his job. They headed home. And although many thoughts raced through their minds, they barely spoke. They walked through the night and made it back to Columbus a little past five o'clock on Sunday morning. They'd only been gone two days. But somehow the town seemed different. Smaller.
Although he'd never get back to the playoffs with the Blue Jackets again, Nash knew he'd miss them. He'd end up in some new city like Carter and probably never struggle again like he did in Columbus. Jesus, does anybody?