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Nationwide Arena prepares for Columbus Blue Jackets season opener, keeping safety front of mind

Some safety protocols are carrying over from last year, such as masks, hand sanitizing stations and cashless operations.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Final preparations are in place as Nationwide Arena gets ready to welcome back the Fifth Line.

“Now the fact that we’re able to be at full capacity and there is that anticipation of what that’s going to be like, it overwhelms you,” Mike Todd said.

Todd has been the voice of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the last 18 years. This year, though, after all the hiccups with COVID-19 in 2020, he says it just hits different.

Vice President of Communications Todd Sharrock agrees and says it’s excitement not only felt by fans.

“They’ve been talking about it since the start of camp about how excited they are,” Sharrock said of the players.

It sounds cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true: players feed off that energy helping to complement the environment.

“Most importantly it’ll be awesome for the players,” General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “They’re athletes, but they’re also performers. They love the crowd [and] they love the enthusiasm.”

Kekalainen says it’s going to be an exciting year with new players, veteran players and new coaching staff. The only way to truly appreciate this year, he says, is to make safety a top priority.

“We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that it’s a safe environment for everybody,” Kekalainen said.

Some safety protocols are carrying over from last year, such as hand sanitizing stations and cashless operations.  Fans are also asked to wear masks inside the arena.

It’s a way for fans to do their part to help keep fans, players and staff healthy for the first full season in two years.

CBJ kicks off its season against the Arizona Coyotes, Thursday, at 7 p.m.