directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Town Hall meeting news & notes from GM Scott Howson & Coach Ken Hitchcock

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Town Hall meeting news & notes from GM Scott Howson & Coach Ken Hitchcock

Hello Jacket nation.

I had a chance to attend a town hall this morning down at Nationwide Arena (pictured right) with President Mike Priest, GM Scott Howson, coach Ken Hitchock and play by play guy Jeff Rimer.

The meeting was broken down into four phases:

Phase I - FAN Ohio Play-by-Play Announcer Jeff Rimer
Jeff Rimer welcomed and thanked everyone for coming and introduced the key members of the staff in attendance.

Phase II - President Mike Priest
Mike Priest started off with a story about how it has been 10 years now since this franchise was actually founded. He described how about 10 years ago he was called by Majority Owner John H. McConnell and asked to wire 10 million dollars to the NHL as part of the expansion deposit. At that time he asked "are we really going to do this?" The answer was yes.

He went on to describe how the ground was broken for Nationwide Arena and how buildings were going up before there were actually any lease agreements in place which for obvious reason made him nervous. He went on to say that John H. McConnell was the one who believed in this city and that it would support this franchise. He said that McConnell firmly believed that having a professional sports franchise would elevate this city to the next level and he was right. Now, he says, look at what we have (in reference to the Arena District and Nationwide) and its something we should all be proud of. So while John H. McConnell and Nationwide were largely responsible for getting this thing off the ground he says its now the community's, both the fans and corporate sponsors alike, team and so far they have done an unbelievable job supporting it.

Phase III - GM Scott Howson
Scott Howson then picked up from where Mike Priest left off and emphasised that Nationwide and the surrounding Arena District are so highly thought of throughout this league and others that even the city where he came from, Edmonton, is using it as a basis as they work to build an arena downtown. Again said that this is something we should all be extremely proud of.

Mr. Howson then quickly focused on the team and discussed his and the organization's philosophy towards building a winner:

  • Believes strongly in finding and keeping the right people who are passionate and committed. Said there are a lot here now both on the ice and within the org. Had a nice quote when he said "Winners make commitments, losers make excuses".

  • Said there is currently a strong leadership group within the room which is important. Specifically mentioned Foote, Modin, Vyborny and Nash.

  • Drafting and development are absolutely crucial in the cap world and will be strongly emphasized. If a draft pick fails he said "if they don't development its our fault" and that he'll "consider it a personal failure". They will provide the proper time and resources for kids to develop.

  • Set that when he talks with fans the overwhelming thing he hears is that they just want to win. Said there is absolutely no chance apathy will set in with the organization which sometimes happens when organizations don't experience success, they are here to win.
Phase IV - Coach Ken Hitchcock
Next up and the final speaker of the event was the head coach. Here is a summary of what he had to say:
  • First thing he did was lose the mike - said its September and its "yelling stage now". (everyone got a good laugh out of that one)

  • Said that he was in Canada at the airport counter (or something like that) and someone asked him what he did. He said he was a head coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. At that point the woman looked at him silly and asked what was that? Hitch told her that he'd be back at this counter in a year's time and she'll know. Went on to explain that a franchise is made once they make the playoffs - that's where the attention is gained.

  • He is in the winning business, not the development business. Scott Howson's job it to look at the big picture and his is the immediate picture and goal of winning now.

  • 96 points got you in the playoffs last year and we were one win below .500 once he took over. Went on to say we were essentially one win a month out of the playoffs.

  • Its not just about getting players into shape for the start of the season. His focus is to make sure they are in shape in May and June. Said the veterans have made significant changes to their bodies.

  • Only 3 players haven't reported yet. The rest are here and already skating together.

  • We are young in age but not in experience - basically saying since we have brought so many kids up early that although they are young they do have the NHL experience which is going to benefit us. Specifically referred to Klesla/Nash/Brule.

  • Said there are no excuses any more. Said everyone is gonna have us ranked 15th or 16th in the conference - could care less about that. Said no one in the print or electronic media knows this team. He has talked to many players and management and they all said how much harder Columbus is to play against since the coaching change.

  • No scrimmages in camp, no skating drills, no horsing around. Gonna start with two teams, give everyone a chance and then cut right down to the players who have a legit chance to make the team. In a hurry to get the team that will play the majority of the season together and working. Re-iterated though that everyone will get a chance.

  • Every player that had issues, whether it be injuries, with the city, with management have all been resolved and are ready to go.

  • His final message, the Columbus Blue Jackets are "gonna shock people".

One last little nugget that I got from Jeff Rimer after a brief conversation with him - there will be 25 HD games televised this season.

2 days til camp!


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