The Columbus Blue Jackets will be hosting a game tonight that’ll be important for a couple reasons. Mainly, and most importantly, it’s a bout against a New York Rangers team that’s right below Columbus in the race for Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Blue Jackets, currently holding onto the seventh seed, need to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them and try and strengthen their position.
But another big reason why tonight will be special is the long awaited return of Rick Nash to Nationwide Arena. Though he was traded to the Rangers during the summer of 2012, Nash has yet to come back to Columbus as a member of the visiting team. It will certainly make for an interesting scene.
Normally, situations like this usually involve some boo birds in the home crowd. The former player is seen as a deserter, someone who no longer wanted to be a part of the club he built his reputation with. However, as far as it goes for Columbus fans, there’s really no reason for them to voice their displeasure when Nash takes the ice in a Rangers sweater.
First of all, it’s been almost two years since the trade occurred. Though bitterness would’ve been expected if Nash was making his return to Ohio just a few months after he was dealt, this is an entirely different situation. You would like to think time has at least healed the wounds of the Nash trade enough for fans not to be upset.
It’s also worth noting that Columbus has been able to compete in the two seasons since trading their former captain, much to the surprise of league pundits. After starting last season pretty miserably, the Blue Jackets rallied and missed the playoffs by a hair. Various moves made this past offseason have put them in a position to make the postseason this year, but they’ve still got a little work to do. With that said, did anyone really think the team would rebound as quickly as they did?
Most importantly, though, is the way Nash handled himself before the eventual deal that sent him to Manhattan. More than a few players have been part of a sinking ship and openly begged to be traded. Others have left in free agency, turning down an offer made by the team they’ve played with for years. With Nash, things were a little different.
Columbus started the 2011-12 season in rough shape. Many people began pestering Nash about any trade requests he might be planning. Instead of coming off like a jerk, demanding to be sent elsewhere, Nash stayed as politically correct as possible. He claimed that, if trading him would help Columbus for the future, he would be open to waiving his no-trade clause. It’s a classy move, one that showed he had no ill-will towards the club that drafted him, and would only discuss the idea of getting traded if it gave the Blue Jackets a brighter future.
In the end, it’s never fun seeing a franchise player traded away. Columbus fans had the pleasure of watching Nash since 2002, so it was only natural for there to be some hurt feelings watching him leave ten years later. Regardless, if you’re going to end your tenure with a club, the way Nash did so is one of the classier routes to take. Some players have burned a few bridges during their time in the NHL, Nash didn’t. For that, you would hope Columbus fans show their appreciation.