Q&A: Blue Jackets team ambassador Jody Shelley

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the October 3, 2013 edition

Jody Shelley is a tough guy, but he’s also supremely nice. The first part came in handy when he was an enforcer for the Blue Jackets for 5 1/2 seasons. The second will come in handy in his new role with the team.

The much-loved Shelley has returned to the team as a broadcast associate and team ambassador, so we dropped the gloves with him.

Returning to Columbus is really awesome. You know, I got traded here in 2008, and when I left they indicated, “When you’re done with your career, pick up the phone.” I always summered here. My wife is from Hocking Hills, and we have a home here and a lot of friends. To finish my career and come back to the Blue Jackets is very special to me.

I think as a professional athlete, you have to identify with your market. For me, it was easy. It’s a blue-collar town that appreciates hard work and effort. The group that was here when I was here, that’s what we had. We brought effort every night. I was fortunate to learn from them and to figure out along the way what Columbus is about. It was an easy fit.

My new role is a broadcasting position with an ambassador role involved. I’ve called a couple of radio games with Bob McElligott. In the television broadcasts, they’re going to fit me in between the benches as an analyst. I spent a lot of time on the bench, so … (laughs). In the ambassador role, I get to get involved with the business community here in Columbus, and I get to interact with fans. For me, the reward is I get to learn the business. To represent the Blue Jackets is exciting and rewarding.

The night I returned to Columbus as a visiting player for the first time was incredible. You get back to the town you considered home for 7-8 years … I was excited to be back in the building. Then, at the first whistle, I look up at the scoreboard, and there’s this thing going on. I was emotional. I just felt like I belonged here. Jeremy Roenick is sitting next to me on the bench, who is, like, Hall of Famer, and he looks at me and goes, “Who the heck are you?!” I said, “Man, this town … the people are amazing.”

An enforcer is a guy who sticks up for his teammates and his friends. He sends a message to other organizations as they roll into Nationwide Arena that, hey, you’re not going to come in here and do what you want. There’s no schoolyard bully who is going to walk in and intimidate our high-scoring players.

There’s not a lot of talking before a fight. If you ran over, let’s say, Marian Gaborik, then you would expect Jared Boll is coming out to say, “Hey. I’m right here.” If something happens, and we make eye contact, that means, “Let’s go.” I’m going to try to break your nose. You’re going to try to break mine. It’s pretty straightforward.

The best fight I was ever in? The one I really liked was Bob Probert. He to me was a man. He’s on a pedestal to me. He scared everyone and didn’t back away from anyone. When I asked him to fight, it was almost like I could see the words leaving my mouth and I wanted to pull them back and say, “Nooooo!” And he goes, “I don’t care,” in this gruff voice. That was a moment to me that really stood out, and I’m still here to talk about it.

This year’s Blue Jackets team is definitely exciting. After the way they ended last season, there’s a buzz in the city, and that’s great to see. I’ve always kept an eye on Columbus as a fan, and I’ve had moments of “Why is this happening?” When you see the team make big decisions like trading Rick Nash, and when these players come in like (Artem) Anisimov, (Brandon) Dubinsky, Gaborik … and they see a fan base that’s passionate and excited and behind them, now they get it. They get what this city is about.