Ohio State football has become a fixture of central Ohio sports since 1890, when the team played its first game in Columbus. Winning 36 conference titles and seven national titles since their inaugural season, the Buckeyes have led the way in putting Columbus on the map in the sports world.
Although the Buckeyes are the face of Columbus sports, the city is home to three professional franchises as well, including the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
Yet, entering their 10th season and lacking the steady success of OSU, with just one playoff appearance on their resume, the Jackets play second fiddle in Ohio’s capital city. But even with OSU’s prominence within the city, Blue Jackets’ right wing Jared Boll said he doesn’t feel like the Jackets play in the Bucks’ shadow.
“Obviously Ohio State football has been around forever and they’re No. 1, but you know it’s a different sport and we can’t really look at it like that,” Boll said. “We just have to worry about winning games and hopefully that will draw the fans.”
Many foreign-born players, such as Jackets’ defenseman Anton Stralman who is from Sweden, don’t even pay attention to OSU sports.
“I’m not too much into football or basketball so I don’t really care about Ohio State,” Stralman said. “I don’t really think about it that way. I think hockey fits into this town; it’s a sports town for sure.”
Despite averaging only around 85 percent home capacity at Nationwide Arena last season, compared with OSU annually ranking among the top in the nation in attendance, Stralman said that the bright future of the franchise will continue to attract Ohio sports enthusiasts to their games.
“As we’re getting better I think the crowds are going to pick up as well,” he said. “It is obviously important that we play good, attractive hockey. That’s what gets the fans here.”
And with the Buckeyes consistently proving themselves as a national football powerhouse, Boll said there is no reason the two can’t coexist and even support one another.
“The first couple years (with the Blue Jackets) I didn’t really follow them much, but once you live here you kind of grow to like them and you kind of have to like them living in Columbus,” he said. “I enjoy watching the football games, watching them win; they’re a great football team, and it’s always fun to cheer for a winning team.”