The plaza is mostly empty in front of Nationwide Arena early Tuesday afternoon, but arrangements are well under way for the fans that gathering to watch this evening's game from outside.
Still, a few a fans are wandering around ahead of the game. Todd Wentz rummages into a bag of new merch outside the team shop.
“I got a coozy, all playoff labeled, I got a playoff puck and a playoff hat,” he says.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the verge of winning their first ever playoff series. Leading the Tampa Bay Lightning three games to nothing, the Jackets have a chance to secure an upset against the top-seeded team in the NHL playoffs.
Wentz works in cybersecurity for Nationwide Insurance nearby. He says he was too excited for the night’s game to sit still.
“I think they need to basically keep doing what they’re doing, honestly,” Wentz says. “Play a full 60 minutes, they need to make sure they contain the top scorers and make sure they essentially just do the same thing they’ve been doing—play strong defense.”
Tampa Bay tied the all-time record for wins this season, but they haven’t had an answer for the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs. After stealing two games in Tampa, the Jackets have a chance to close out the series at home.
Jeff Blosser has been a season ticket holder since day one, and on Tuesday is sporting a Blue Jackets jersey with his name on the back. He says getting the sweep will be more a matter of determination than skill.
“Tampa has nothing to lose tonight so they’re going to come in, and they’re going to try to just force their will,” he says. "And I think the Jackets, to pull the sweep, will have to go from pure heart and adrenaline.”
Don Desender and Darcy Dooley are having a beer before the pre-game festivities start in earnest.
"I love defense,” Dooley says with a laugh,.“So it's really good to see the defense really step up, and I think they've really been the difference."
She suggests that stout backend may have thrown Tampa Bay off its rhythm, just as the Blue Jackets are figuring out how to incorporate new players added at the trade deadline.
“Definitely surprised that it’s three to nothing,” Desender says. “I thought that we underperformed part of the year and had the ability to play this well, but we hadn’t shown it yet. So it’s nice to see that the team’s coming together and playing really well right now.”
Security has asked us to remind you that due to safety concerns, you can not bring a broom into the arena tonight. #CBJ
— Nationwide Arena (@NationwideArena) April 16, 2019
Nationwide Arena organizers are hosting a party in the plaza ahead of the game, and for security reasons, they’ve warned fans they can’t bring brooms into the arena - sweep or no sweep.