COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the Ohio capital, winter used to be the time between Buckeyes football and Buckeyes spring football. But a hockey team has changed that.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the hottest thing on ice, tied for the second best record in the NHL (29-13). That included a 15-game winning streak. Columbus went undefeated in December (14-0).
That would have been hard to imagine last season, when the team started 0-7-0 and fired its coach.
The Blue Jackets have been the punching bag of the league since debuting as an expansion team in 2000. They had a winning record in only four of 15 seasons and made the playoffs just twice.
But John Tortorella turned a losing culture into a winning one.
Tortorella arrived two weeks into the 2015-16 season with his fiery reputation in tow. He had fought other teams and openly criticized his own players in his three previous NHL head coaching jobs. He got fired from each one, but he also won a Stanley Cup at Tampa Bay and coached his teams to the playoffs eight times.
The Blue Jackets finished 34-40 and in last place in their division, but there was optimism coming into training camp this season. That's when Tortorella asked his team a point-blank question.
"Are we going to be happy about playing a good game and lose it, 3-2? Or are we just going to stop this and raise our standard?'" Tortorella told WCPO. "And i think the players have raised their standard. You don't raise your standard in wins and losses unless you start becoming a better pro."
"It sparked all of us to be better and be part of the solution here. So I credit him a lot," said the team captain, Nick Foligno.
Ken Broo visited the Blue Jackets at practice. Watch his report in the video player above.