By Michael Rich
David Clark and his daughter Celeste got to live the dream earlier this month. They won the grand prize and got to travel with the Columbus Blue Jackets to a Dec. 1 game at Montreal.
“It was great,” David said. “First class all the way. We had no bad experiences — even at the game.”
The Clark’s have been Blue Jacket season ticket holders since the beginning, and when David turned in the early renewal, he was entered in the contest. Celeste has been going to games since she was two years old.
His name was selected in a pool of about a thousand others in the contest that the Blue Jackets have been running for the past five seasons. There are several prizes drawn, including tickets to Cedar Point, which the Clark’s had won 14 years in a row.
“We’re lucky at the Blue Jackets to offer these types of unique experiences for our season ticket holders,” Blue Jackets director of service and retention Kelly Jones said. “This is by far one of the coolest opportunities for any fan to be able to see behind the scenes what it’s like to travel to an away game.”
The Clarks traveled on the team plane, stayed in the same hotel as the Jackets and attended the game before flying home with the team.
“We were the first ones on the plane,” Celeste said. “We got to see all the players walk on. That was pretty cool. They kind of did a double-take, like ‘we don’t know these people.’ But, they all said hi — they were really friendly. That was probably my favorite part.”
They stayed with the players in the same hotel, which was about a block away from the Bell Centre — home of the Canadiens.
“(When we rode) the elevators with them, they would always start a conversation with us,” Celeste said. “They knew who we were — we were on the plane. So, they knew we weren’t crazy fans. That was pretty cool.”
David and Celeste had never been to Montreal, so they got a chance to sight see. They also got to discover the cultural differences between the United States and Canada.
“They use Celsius there, so we had no idea (what the temperature conversion was),” Celeste said. “So, we were asking Siri all the time, ‘what’s negative-1 degree Celsius, because that seems cold.
“There was only one time where the whole menu was in French and we were kind of like, ‘eh, I don’t know what any of that says.’ So, we had to ask someone.”
They had Monday night and Tuesday before the game to see the city, which included a visit to Notre-Dame Basilica, a science museum, and their first trip in an Uber.
“It was beautiful — an old church,” David said. “We walked around and looked at some shops.”
The in-game experience was a little bit different than what they were accustomed to at Blue Jackets games. They couldn’t walk down and stand in front of the glass during warmups and there weren’t very many promotional giveaways during breaks.
“It was strictly hockey,” David said. “The fan experience was phenomenal … 22,000 people in the arena, all into the game. It was actually kind of silent when they were playing because they were all into the game. You can definitely tell — that is their sport and they take it seriously.”
They photo-bombed their way onto the scoreboard, which was a highlight to the trip.
“He saw that we had our Blue Jackets jerseys,” David said. “The light came on and we stood up and started cheering. It was funny because they took us off almost immediately. It was only up there for about two or three seconds.”
Celeste is a senior guard on the Olentangy girls basketball team. She led them in scoring with 17 points off the bench in a recent win over Delaware Hayes.
There was a sense of comradery she said is similar to the one she has with her team.
“I thought they were all pretty close,” she said. “When they went out, it wasn’t like three or four guys, it was eight or 10 guys. There aren’t that many new guys. Nick Foligno — the captain — he brought them with him. It’s what we do in basketball, so it’s kind of cool to see that.”
She missed a couple of practices, which cost her a quarter of game time each.
The Blue Jackets lost 2-1 to the Canadiens on a power-play goal by Max Pacioretty with 2:09 left in the game.
Foligno scored the only goal for Columbus on a wrap-around, 17:23 into the first period. It was his first goal in 21 games.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.