Cannon Ball: Blue Jackets goal celebration

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The crew at Nationwide Arena knows how to throw a quick party. Like, a 30-second one.

In hockey, the action is fast. Head to grab a beer at the wrong time, miss a goal. Be five minutes late, - as I was to a game last month - miss three goals.

But what you won't miss at a Blue Jackets game is a goal celebration, a raucous mini-party revolving around the team's signature cannon blast that always infects the crowd, even in this season of more downs than ups.

The celebrations go off like they're automatic. They're not. Let's break down one from a recent game.

The goal

Derick Brassard finds Jake Voracek across the ice for a one-timer. Puck hits the back of the net. The referee points in the goal to signal the score. From a booth at the top of the arena, an NHL official activates the swirling red goal lamp. The arena's events presentation team takes over from here.

The horn

In another booth at the top of the arena lives the goal horn operator. The moment he sees the ref's signal and the red lamp light, he activates the goal horn, plunging down a comical big red button (pictured) surrounded by a bull's-eye. It's a setup that would make Wile E. Coyote proud.

Once that rich air-horn sound fills the air, Blue Jackets organist Bob Dawson begins a countdown over his headset to the rest of the presentation team: "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three ..." Like a rock drummer tapping off a four-count, he gets everyone in rhythm for the next part to kick in. Or blast in, as it were.

The cannon

Dawson hits "one thousand five," and the horn blast is ended. He cues a clip of AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock." As AC/DC's Brian Johnson finishes the title line, Dawson gives a command of "Go fire!" on the headset like a cheerful Napoleon.

A staff member on the catwalk high above the ice activates the punctuating moment of the celebration: the synchronized pyrotechnic blast of the 12-foot, 1,500-pound replica cannon that nests above Section 111.

It's a moment that sets Jackets fans' hearts racing and sends sensitive kids' fingers into their ears.

The chant

As the smoke settles, Dawson cues the music for the clap-along crowd chant (or, upon a third home goal, the delightful stew of the Chili Chant). As the flag-waving celebration subsides, Director of Event Presentation Kimberly Kershaw orders, "Cue 'Cinderella,'" over the headset. The production booth launches into a video clip of Bill Murray in "Caddyshack" as the crowd returns to their seats. "It's in the hole! It's in the hole!"

And just like that, it's time to clean up and wait for the next party.