I started going to Blue Jackets games with regularity in 2008. At the time, I lived about 220 miles away in Louisville, KY, but I still made twelve trips up I-71 that year in my beat up little blue car. In 2009, I moved back to Cincinnati, and they became 100 mile trips up I-71, so I upped it to twenty five. I had a partial season package, and so did one of my good friends. I didn’t really know anybody in Columbus, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time.

Then this Twitter thing happened. Around that same time, people started using it more commonly, and the most amazing thing happened. Teams started using it, journalists started using it, and suddenly, everything was there at my fingertips, when I wanted it: information, stories, and photos. With that, slowly this sense of Twitter-community formed. I wasn’t just chattering about the Blue Jackets to an empty auditorium anymore (or maybe I was); there were other people on this new stage who loved them just as much as I did, and now I had an outlet to connect with them:

Post-game at RBar! Dinner at Boston’s! Meet me at the glass for warm-ups!

I didn’t make it to the first CannonFest, but I’ve been to all the rest. It feels like a family reunion without all the baby photos and familial awkwardness. You get to say hey to the Twitter pals and the blogger buddies you probably haven’t seen since April. It brings together everybody you haven’t seen beyond the @-symbol in months, but somehow it’s like you never left. There are new faces in Tom’s videos (like every year it seems), and someone new to hang our hope on. We reel together, just like we celebrate together.

I love being a Blue Jackets fan. For most of the last thirteen years, we’ve been the butt of a lot of stupid, unfunny jokes. We’ve been through a lot of heartbreak. We’ve watched a lot of losing games. But we’ve done it all together. Together. How many times have we gotten together at the cannon in the first intermission and lamented about some terrible goal they gave up after scoring first? How many times have we jumped out of our seats in unison and exchanged high fives after Cam, or Matty, or Arty, or LeBESTu lit the red light? After Bob stopped every single shot? After the defenseman du jour clobbered the other team’s superstar against the boards?

CannonFest is just a one-day, three hour display of what happens 365 days a year for a Blue Jackets fan. Being a Blue Jackets fan is being part of a community. Everybody wants to feel like they’re part of something, especially something that they’re so passionate about. I’ve never felt that in other sports: there is something so insanely intimate about hockey that sets it apart. Thank you, Twitter, for making it so easy, and thank you CannonFest, for making it so fun.