There are two common questions I get when I tell people I’m a Columbus Blue Jackets fan.
One is “who are they?”
And the other, more common one is “how did that happen?”
The first usually comes from people who don’t follow hockey while the second is more common among those who do. Typically posed by local friends and acquaintances, that second question is often laced with genuine curiosity: they honestly want to know what prompted me, a 29 year old woman from New Brunswick, Canada, to choose a very out of market team.
And I always answer the question the same way: it started as a joke.
About three years ago, I decided I wanted to get into hockey. I’ve never been a sports person, but my best friend loves the game so I figured why not give it a try.
When I told my husband, he suggested we should watch a game together. He’s a Montreal Canadiens fan so one night, we decided to put on a game.
That night happened to be November 4, 2016. Blue Jackets fans will remember what happened that night, but for those who might not be aware, well…
To say we were shocked would be an understatement. It was such a ridiculous blow-out from a team who, as my best friend put it, typically couldn’t buy a goal. After goal eight, even Jeff wanted them to keep going.
That was the night I picked the Blue Jackets as my team.
Three years later, it has definitely been a ride. There have been a lot of highs, a lot of lows and a lot of things in the middle.
There have also been, as it turns out, a few expenses.
First of all, I think it’s important to note that all of the money I have spent as a Blue Jackets fan has been a choice. Spending money is not a pre-requisite for being a fan and none of these things are essentials.
Secondly, regarding the game we attended in Montreal: we planned that trip as an anniversary/Christmas gift. We spent months saving and even though we used credit cards during the trip, we paid the balance in full with cash as soon as we returned home.
With those disclaimers in place, this is a very rough estimate of what I have spent as a Blue Jackets fan over the last two seasons. I’ve also provided some context to help make sense of the costs.
(after taxes, fees and exchange)
We went to our first NHL game in November 2017. It was awesome and I am so glad we were able to make it happen. However, I did learn some important, expensive lessons about buying tickets.
My first mistake was the result of not paying attention: I accidentally purchased tickets through a reseller. While the mark up wasn’t all that bad, the process of actually receiving our tickets was awful.
I’m not going to get into too much detail, except to say there were discussions at one point with VISA about a chargeback. In the end, it worked out but needless to say, the experience soured me on buying from resellers.
The second stupid thing I did was forget the tickets were in USD. That explains the price. Lesson: pay more attention next time!
Our closest NHL arena is an almost eight hour drive away in Montreal. This is a very rough estimate of our costs, based on credit card statements from the trip.
Hotel: $337.37 for three nights
Our hotel was a little farther away from the arena, but we picked it specifically because it offered something many Montreal hotels do not: free parking.
Taxi fares: ~$85
One of the first decisions we made in planning our trip was that we would not drive our car in the city. Montreal is a very different driving climate than we’re used to and neither of us felt particularly comfortable with the idea of getting behind the wheel. Plus, there was the whole matter of finding a place to park (and paying for it). Neither of us wanted that headache; choosing cabs removed the stress so we could both enjoy the trip.
(Added bonus: along with the money we spend, our hotel graciously comped us vouchers that paid for two more trips into the city!)
Normally when we travel, we grocery shop to cut down costs here, but this was a short trip. Notable food cost: the $20 spent on two beers at a local restaurant. It hurts just remembering it, honestly.
One nice part of driving our car as opposed to a rental is that it is very efficient on gas! This seems low, but gas was a little cheaper then and we only drove to and from the city, not in the city.
We didn’t spend a lot of money on things outside the items listed above. I picked up some pins for my co-workers at the Bell Centre, we bought a magnet for the fridge and we picked up a couple Christmas gifts. If we actually spent $100, I’d be surprised.
Not included in this total: the cost of the tickets for the concert we attended while in Montreal. We saw Thrice the night after the game. They were amazing. But that’s not a hockey-related cost.
This may be a little high, but I don’t want to low-ball it. This covers the cost of two shirts, a ball hat, a mug and a key chain. I also have a sweater, but that was a gift from my brother-in-law for Christmas, so I’m not including that.
This is a category where the vendor makes a huge difference. Most of these things were purchased in Canada, but I bought one of the shirts and my hat online – which meant going through the American site.
Yes, you can purchase Columbus gear though the Canadian site. However, there is not much in the way of variety. The American site offers more options – unfortunately, with the current state of the Canadian dollar, it means a higher price tag on the item along with the silly cost for shipping.
(Honestly, this is one of the big reasons I don’t own a jersey. I’d want one in home colours and I just cannot justify the exchange and shipping while paying back debt.)
My sanity: ?
Here’s the thing about being a Columbus Blue Jackets fan in Atlantic Canada: if they’re not playing a Canadian team, you can’t watch the game on TV without paying for a pricy cable package. This is one area where I sacrifice for the sake of our budget: I stream all the games I watch online.
Some nights, I get lucky and find a good stream that works well all night. Other nights…not so much. That said, the cost saving on the cable bill is worth the tiny bit of sanity I lose on those difficult evenings.
My time: Priceless? Maybe? I don’t know.
My first year as a fan, I made an effort to watch every game I could. I’ve calmed down a bit now, but I still spend many evenings from October to April sitting with my computer, yelling at the screen.
I have found ways to make this time more productive – sometimes I will bring the computer to the kitchen with me so I can meal prep while the game is on, or sometimes I will take it to the spare room so I can paint or craft or whatever. But honestly, most nights, my preference is to sit back with a snack and spend the night live-tweeting.
Choosing an out-of-market team has been an expensive endeavour in some ways but I honestly love being a Blue Jackets fan. It’s not just about the team – it’s the community. That’s one reason I love Twitter so much – over the last two years, it has given me a way to connect with other fans during the season. It’s been a lot of fun and I cannot wait for this season to get underway.
Are you a sports fan? Do you like a team outside your market? Let me know in the comments below!