Game on: Hockey is back

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

It's January, Columbus, and you know what that means! Time for the start of Blue Jackets hockey! Wait … huh?

Yeah, that NHL labor dispute that threatened to eliminate the hockey season (for the second time in a decade) was finally settled, so they're set to drop the puck at Nationwide and play out a half-season of hockey! (Minus that All-Star Game that Columbus was scheduled to host.)

Who cares, you ask? Well, if you love Columbus like we do, you should. Here are six reasons you should give a puck.

It's called the Arena District for a reason

Sure, the Arena District has grown since the birth of the Jackets, but that big ol' arena is still the centerpiece.

Many Arena District businesses depend heavily on those game night crowds - and that means jobs and local tax revenue, whether you frequent them or not.

Businesses like relative newcomers The Three-Legged Mare and Rodizio Grill and stalwart hockey bar R Bar are anxiously awaiting hockey fans … and their money. That's a good thing.

Short season could be long on excitement

The upside of a 48-game season? It's the first time the Blue Jackets have been tied for first place in January. Zing!

The condensed season really does shake things up, though. The Jackets are a team characterized by some hot streaks they can't maintain over a season. Get hot for a month in the 2013 season, and you may find yourself in the playoffs.

For Jackets fans who are unfamiliar, the NHL playoffs are all that hockey the other teams are playing for two months after our season ends. And we hear the playoffs can be quite exciting.

Either way, a short season magnifies the importance of each game - and eliminates the tedium that a long losing season can bring.

No All-Star Game? We still got new stuff

Bad news: The All-Star Game got the ax, along with Columbus' chance to showcase itself to hockey fans around the nation and world.

Good news: We still got some shiny new toys we were hoping to show off that weekend.

The addition of the Downtown Hilton was a key development in luring the All-Star Game to Columbus, since the league requires a city to have adequate hotel space near the venue. Even during the regular season, it will be a prime location for visiting fans - and it's location on the doorstep of the Short North is a great showcase for the city. Plus, some poor Detroit Red Wings fan will unwittingly be falling asleep in a room with Columbus-based art!

At the arena, you've got a massive, state-of-the-art new scoreboard and a new multi-level parking garage right next to the arena. Our next chance at an All-Star game is likely 2014, but we get to keep these benefits.

Want the NBA? Support the NHL

Basketball fans, you may have a vested interest in the health of the Blue Jackets.

Mayor Michael Coleman made headlines last May by calling on the NBA to consider Columbus for a team, suggesting a team could share Nationwide Arena with the hockey team. It seems to work for the 10 other cities that have NBA and NHL teams playing under the same roof.

Yeah, it remains a pipe dream, but floundering attendance for the Blue Jackets sure doesn't help make that case.

The new (and hopefully improved) Blue Jackets

The Jackets' on-ice futility is well known. Will they be good this year? As Sam Shakusky ("Moonrise Kingdom") would put it, "Who's to say?" What they will be is different.

Franchise face Rick Nash finally got his requested trade over the summer. Was the best player ever to don the Union Blue the problem all along? Not likely, but his departure leaves the chance for a new identity wide open.

We like defenseman Jack Johnson's shot at being the face of change. He seems genuinely excited to be playing for Columbus. We like that.

They really, really want you back

The real loser in this NHL lockout? Hockey fans. And they are definitely pissed.

But the team looks to be trying to make amends, kicking off the season with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink promotion for Opening Night.

They offered 2-for-1 tickets, T-shirts, magnets and cheer cards for every fan in the door and a voucher for free food and drink. The team needs you back in those seats, and they're trying to say, "We're sorry." More promotions are likely to follow.

Basically, we're the prettiest girl in school, and they're trying to woo us. Take advantage.

Blue Jackets home opener vs. Detroit Red Wings

Nationwide Arena

7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21

200 W. Nationwide Blvd., Arena District