Hey Chris Chelios, I care about Columbus
The former Blackhawk had an all-time bad take last week.
Dear Chris Chelios,
You might not remember me, but I was one of the folks who interviewed you the night you set the record as the oldest active player in the NHL, second oldest of all time, when the Atlanta Thrashers visited the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Our interview, conducted with my colleague Cody Leist, even ended up on the home page of NHL.com that night.
Despite your history playing for the Blackhawks and Red Wings, two of the Jackets divisional rivals at the time, of course it was awe inspiring to hear from a legend of your stature in person and witness you setting records decades into your career.
Your recent comments during the NHL Draft Lottery are sticking with me – and I need to say something.
When the Blackhawks won, jumping Columbus and going from third to first and obtaining the honor of selecting Connor Bedard first overall, you flat out said, "I don't care about Columbus." As a fan of the game, I couldn’t stop thinking about how your thoughtless comment came off to those outside of your bubble.
Here's the thing: Columbus may not have the same popularity or success as Chicago, but at minimum, they deserve the respect of someone who is supposed to be an ambassador of the game, who is being paid handsomely on television for your analysis.
You’re human, I know. Comments made in the moment are easy to overstate, and you’re on TV to make noise.
Talk away, talking head.
Then I watch this interview the next day, or as much as I could stomach, and you still keep gushing like you’re on the Blackhawks payroll.
Do you work for ESPN or Chicago?
Look, I get it. The Jackets haven’t won a Stanley Cup, and they haven’t made much noise against any of your former teams. For those reasons, they sit in your blind spot.
But to brush them aside as an afterthought is an insult to the league and the growing game of hockey.
Straight from the NHL, the Blue Jackets have made significant impact on the sport of hockey in Ohio and beyond. The Blue Jackets Foundation invested over $1.5 million in youth hockey programs in the state in 2022, and cumulatively over $13 million has gone to support youth health and wellness initiatives in Central Ohio since 2000.
I care about that.
Not to mention the hard work everyone in Nationwide Arena has put in over the last two plus decades to grow the sport in a region where it was previously overlooked.
I care about that, too.
They all deserve better. You should do better.
Hockey is a game where the heat of the moment rules, but it’s supposed to be played with respect. By dismissing Columbus, you're perpetuating a harmful narrative that belittles the achievements of a hardworking and dedicated team, and the passionate fans who support them.
This is a fanbase who packed the arena late into the season for a last place team.
I would know.
I was there.
Were you there?
How have the Blackhawks total attendance numbers been trending for nearly a decade?
I hope in the future, you'll consider the impact of your words and actions, and recognize the value every team and fan brings to the sport of hockey. Your comments came across as tone-deaf and disrespectful.
As a respected figure in the hockey community – you’re a 3x Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Famer for goodness sake! – you have a responsibility to set a positive example and promote inclusivity and respect in all aspects of the sport.
This is more than sour grapes. This is about how you represent the league and the game of hockey to fans around the world. As an ESPN employee, I’d assume you also have a responsibility to provide the so-called analysis, but I’m failing to see it anywhere I look.
And ESPN is the official partner of the NHL?
Jackets fans, and hockey fans in general, deserve better.
I feel compelled to do my best to give Blue Jackets fans the coverage they deserve.
And the good news: I don’t have to listen to bosses in faraway buildings – I can listen to the fans in Nationwide instead.
I’m committed to providing an independent view of the #CBJ you aren’t seeing anywhere else. That means more content directly from Nationwide Boulevard, not a TV studio in New York City.
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