Columbus, Ohio, your long local nightmare is over. In the team's eighth season, your Blue Jackets have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Can I get an amen?!
It's absolutely fitting that Rick Nash would be the one to score the goal that officially put the Jackets in the playoffs. He netted the tying tally at the 14:30 mark of the third period against the Hawks in Chicago. The clubs remained tied through regulation time, giving the Jackets the point they needed to clinch a spot. In his sixth season, Nash has lived through a lot of down times in Columbus. Now, more mature and with more support around him, Nash stands among the very best players in the league. Clearly, Nash and young stopper Steve Mason have provided the horsepower on the club's drive to the playoffs.
With the spot finally clinched, I'd like to send out congratulations to the entire Blue Jackets organization, from ownership and management to the Zamboni driver and the stick boys. And there has to be a special shout-out for coach Ken Hitchcock, who has done a terrific job of creating a new culture within his locker room. That, my friends, ain't easy to do.
Also, I'd like to offer congratulations to assistant GM Chris McFarland. In another lifetime, Chris was a hardworking right winger on the club hockey team at Pace University in New York. I know this because I was the coach of that team. I was so good at it, I went into the media! Somehow, Chris managed to overcome that experience. In his professional life, Chris has shown the same determination and dedication he displayed on the ice so many years earlier. I'm glad to see he'll finally get a taste of the playoffs.
And, oh yeah, I have to send some postseason good wishes to the club's VP of public relations, Todd Sharrock. In the early '90s, Sharrock was a young PR guy with the just-arrived Stars in Dallas. At that time, he and his boss, Stars media relations chief Larry Kelly, did a good job chasing me out of the locker room. Ohio native -- and Ohio State grad -- Sharrock found his way to Columbus in 2000. I'm sure he's much happier to be working on a playoff media guide as opposed to a season-in-review booklet.
Enjoy the playoffs, Blue Jackets fans. Your team is going to be a pain in the butt for someone.