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The city of Columbus, Ohio, had always struggled to support any professional sports franchise. It’s a town where Ohio State University reigns supreme, and everything else is less important. That was until 1991, when the Columbus Chill, a minor-league hockey franchise, arrived. Using Veeckian marketing tactics and on-ice shenanigans, the Chill became the talk of the city and gained a religious local fan base. Based in part on the success of the Chill, from 1991–99, the city of Columbus was awarded with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000, the city’s own NHL franchise.

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The Most Influential Team in Minor League Hockey History!

Minor league to major league in six years!

“The hottest game in town.” – The Other Paper, November 1991“

“Most big cities have an alternative newspaper, an alternative radio station, and an alternative theatre. Columbus, Ohio now has alternative athletics – or, more specifically, Hockey for the Hip.”

Wall Street Journal, December 31, 1991.

“The Chill is hot.”

Ray Gandolf, ABC’s World News Tonight, January 1992.

“The Columbus Chill has no right to be soooo hot. It’s the deep minor leagues, twice removed from the flash and bash of the NHL. No Gretzky’s skate here. Worse, the Chill chose a city in which Ohio State football is king and basketball is the crown prince. It is no coincidence three times hockey has failed there. Paitson and his young (24 to 32 years old) husting staff weren’t going to sell hockey as much as they were going to have fun and share it.”

Steve Love, Akron Beacon Journal, March 8, 1992.

“The difficulty the Columbus Chill had in nailing down dates for their coming season was one of the main reasons we’ve decided to appoint a citizens commission to study how and where a sports/civic arena might be built in Columbus.”

Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka, Columbus Dispatch, September 11, 1992.

“There are NHL teams that would love to have a facility like the Chiller.”

Terry Ruskowski, (a.k.a. “Roscoe”), October 1993.

“With the marketing savvy of a slick corporation, the cohesion of a family business, and the juvenile charm of the Hanson Brothers, the Chill melted the hearts of Central Ohioans.”

David Martin, Columbus Guardian, November 3, 1993.

“The Chill is a class organization. They clearly know who their market is and how to appeal to them. This kind of marketing would impress the NHL in receiving an expansion team.”

Kevin Allen, USA Today, 1993.

“It’s one thing for our citizens to look the other way and pretend that the Fairgrounds Coliseum is a first-rate facility when the in-laws from Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Indianapolis visit, but it’s quite another to put its hockey team on a bus in the middle of the playoffs and send them over the river and through the woods to Hobart Arena (in Troy, Ohio).”

Bob Hunter’s column in the Columbus Dispatch, March 28, 1995.

“It would be very helpful for us to have an NHL expansion team being awarded, but I don’t think it is fatal [to the arena issue] if that doesn’t happen. We’ve already shown that the economics of the arena work as an entertainment facility and with the Chill.”

Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka, Columbus Dispatch, October 25, 1996.

“The Chill’s Top Gun: David Paitson never takes the ice, but he’s the driving force behind the phenomenal success of pro hockey in Columbus. Now he’s pushing for an arena and an NHL franchise.”

Headline from Columbus Monthly, December 1996

“The Columbus Chill deserves its own wing in the public relations hall of fame that could serve as a model for minor league hockey franchises everywhere.”

Bob Hunter, Columbus Dispatch, October 30, 1998.

“Does doing funky things with a minor league team guarantee its success? Absolutely not! There are plenty of teams that aren’t successful that do crazy things. What the Columbus Chill had is hard to quantify, but I think it was soul. Their antics were genuine and touched their audience far deeper than anyone could expect. Their soul’s divinity was to entertain the fans. Fun was so imbedded into their DNA that their success amazingly spawned a major league team. If I could get into a time machine I’d go back and enjoy those Columbus Chill games.”
Jon Spoelstra

American author, sports marketer, and a former NBA executive.

All - Time Chill Team

Defenseman, 1993-95

Defenseman, 1991-93

Forward, 1991-93, 1998-99

Forward, 1993-97

Forward, 1992-96, 1998-99

Goaltender, 1996-99

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