CBJ Road Trips

Jane Hawes

Gregg Dube grew up in Connecticut, a die-hard fan of the Hartford Whalers. The National Hockey League franchise morphed into the Carolina Hurricanes when they moved to North Carolina in 1997, but Dube eventually found a new team - the Columbus Blue Jackets - to cheer for when he and his family moved to Columbus in 2011.

"We bought season tickets as soon as we moved here," Dube said. He wanted his children, 7-year-old Ryan and Emma, now 5, to experience ice hockey the way he had as a child. And that now includes going on the occasional family road trip to follow the team.

The Dube family, including mom Sue Ellen, travelled to Nashville this past March and will head to St. Louis this March. While stories of opposing fans getting harassed at football and baseball games aren't unusual to hear, Dube said taking kids to an opponent's home ice hasn't been a problem.

"Maybe back east, but out here, the fans won't hassle you," Dube said. "You also don't have the tailgating going on."

A key piece of the family's travel planning has been to tap into the resources offered by the Jacket Backers, the officially recognized fan club for the Blue Jackets. The nonprofit group, founded soon after the CBJ franchise was created in 2000, welcomes anyone to participate in their events, whether they're dues-paying members or not.

The Jacket Backers often host game-watching parties at local restaurants when the Jackets' away games are televised, and occasionally they put together travel packages for away games. While anyone under the age of 21 can't ride the Jacket Backers' bus, families can take advantage of group pricing on hotels and buy game tickets, also at a group-discount rate, said Julie Maurer, the club's president.

"Families are really welcome with us," Maurer said.

Sitting in what Dube calls the "microcosm" of Jackets-friendly territory is part of the experience, he said, explaining that "being in a section with other Blue Jackets fans is really fun."

Maurer added, "You definitely feel safety in numbers, but truthfully, there haven't been problems. If you hear people using foul language, usually all you have to do is remind them there are kids present. And we have had quite a few families with us."

Another tip Dube offers: Get to the arena early so you can find a place to have dinner and take pictures.

"(The arena in) Nashville, for example, doesn't feel as easy to get to (as Nationwide Arena)," Dube said. "There's a lot of foot and car traffic in that area. Hockey is not the only thing going on there."

An added bonus for going on CBJ road trips is that many of the drive-able destinations offer opportunities for extra family fun.

"We ended up staying in the Opryland hotel in Nashville, so we spend a lot of time checking out all the sights around there and then outside the arena as well," Dube said. "When we go to St. Louis, we'll do the Arch and other places."

Check out past Overnight Trippin' articles that have travel tips for NHL-franchise locations likePhiladelphia (July 2014),Pittsburgh (October 2011),Chicago (November 2012) andToronto (May 2013).

The Jacket Backers are even putting together a road-trip package for the Feb. 7 game in Ottawa, as well as the March 28 game in St. Louis that the Dubes will be attending.

"We're sharing our love of hockey," Maurer said.

For more information about the Jacket Backers and their road-trip travel options, go to jacketbackers.org.