COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — School’s out for the summer but hockey is in. The Cap City Summer Elite League had its inaugural game Tuesday featuring past and present Columbus Blue Jackets.
The four-team league lasts nine weeks with the format of three-on-three hockey at Chiller North every Tuesday leading up to NHL training camps.
The rosters are fluid week to week, but Blue Jackets like captain Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic, Sean Kuraly and Patrik Laine will all be part of the league.
“I’ve known this all along how special this place is,” Former Blue Jacket and current Philadelphia Flyer Cam Atkinson said. “It just goes to show on a Tuesday in summer what a great hockey town this is.”
For the first time, professional, college and international hockey players who live in central Ohio have a summer league in their backyard.
“This is something that kind of occurs in mature markets when we’ve got players that spend summers in towns like this,” said Kuraly, who’s from Dublin and played for the AAA Blue Jackets. “I think it says a lot about how far hockey’s come here. Just fun to be a part of and we know it’ll keep growing and keep getting better.”
Getting better is the goal for everyone taking part in the league. It gives players like former Blue Jacket and current Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson a chance to hone their game minutes away from home.
“You know if anything I think I train harder just to try and make sure I get to where I need to be to perform at the level I want to perform at,” Johnson said.
That’s exactly why Nick Petragalia and Pat Cannone from the AAA Blue Jackets, Battery Hockey Academy owner Joey Nahay and international pro J.C. Campagna decided to launch the league.
“Every summer all the pros skate at Chiller North and the group kept growing because Columbus is growing a lot in the hockey community,” Campagna said. “We kind of always joked around it’d be nice to have a league and it’s been talked about for three-four years, so we finally pulled the trigger. It’s been crazy but it’s been a fun experience.”
And having fun is how kids come to love the sport in the first place.
“More and more kids are continuing to play and fall in love with not only the Battery but the Blue Jackets and everything that this city has to offer, so it’s cool,” said Atkinson who has two kids that skate at the Battery.
The league is also free to the general public.
“It was fun to play in front of a crowd like that, a lot of kids and excitement around the rink here so it was cool,” Jenner said.
“In Columbus 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have enough for two teams, let alone four teams and a waiting list of guys asking to get in,” Campagna said. “The growth of hockey in Columbus is awesome.”