COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Hockey fans are ready for summer to wind down and ice time to wind up.
Saturday, several thousand people attended a public practice during the Blue Jackets training camp. The crowds watched three different groups practice and scrimmage between 9 a.m. – 2:10 p.m. at the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Father-daughter duo Michael and Abigail Prachar were excited for the preseason access the open training camp allows.
“We’ve always been huge fans of hockey, even since I was 4 or 5. So we just wanted to come see the practice because it’s not something you can watch a lot of the time,” Abigail Prachar said.
Many other fans were making the free event a family outing.
Jacey Snyder, 11, attended most of the 2018-2019 games with her family’s season tickets and closely watches the team during the offseason.
“I loved the Blue Jackets last year and was a big fan of Panarin, but he left and Bjork-y’s [Bjorkstrand is] my favorite now,” she explained.
Others commented on a tough loss of star players Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene, who all left as unrestricted free agents in early July.
“The expectation — we’ll be in the playoffs, we’ll go far and we’re going to rub the three’s faces in the fact that they left and they could’ve stayed,” Michael Prachar predicted.
Snyder added, “I think they’re going to do really good without Panarin still. I think Cam’s [Atkinson] going to have a good year, Josh [Anderson], Bjork-y [Bjorkstrand], I think they’re all going to have really good years this year.”
Most fans were similarly optimistic about the fresh start and many were looking forward to hockey’s return in Columbus.
“It was a long off-season, so we’re excited for it to start,” said Michael Prachar.
The first preseason game will be played at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 at home against the Buffalo Sabres.