Cam Atkinson had the right to be upset. Imagine being at a draft party signing autographs and mingling with fans one night. Then the next day, in a flash, his world turned upside down.
On the same day, the phone was from GM Jarmo Kekalinen of L Blue Jacket. “We traded you in the Philadelphia Flyers.” Fans have seen this moment in an episode of Behind the Battle.
John Davidson was seen giving the sign of the cross as management left their office seat. Kekalinen was heard to say “to make another fun phone call.” It was a huge moment for the team and no one including Atkinson was seen coming.
They say that character is how you respond to something. If you need more proof of Atkinson’s character, check out how he handled this trade. Even to this day, he has managed everything with professionalism and class.
When Atkinson took the ice on Thursday night in the presence of hundreds of friends and family at the Nationwide Arena, it was going to be an emotional moment for him. Why? Because like Nick Foligano at the start of this season, Columbus is and will be at Atkinson’s home.
Related: The Bruins will always have a home in Columbus, Nick Foligano
Legacy of Atkinson’s Blue Jacket
Atkinson will be remembered for being one of the greatest blue jackets of all time. This is not an exaggeration. While Rick Nash is the only player ahead of him in the franchise scoring list, you can see the impact of Atkinson.
Atkinson scored 20 goals in six consecutive seasons, including 35 in 2016-17 and 41 in 2018-19. He was one of the highest scorers in the Blue Jacket. He was instrumental in helping Columbus win their first play-off series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Atkinson’s ice work speaks for itself. But outside of the ice, we can sit for hours talking about what he has done and continues to do in the Columbus community. His battery hockey academy is running strong. Several people from there will attend the game on Thursday. He continues his work with the Force Network Fund. Whatever the jersey with Atkinson, the return will always be in front.
To top it all off, the way Atkinson handled himself cemented his legacy as one of the greatest blue jackets of all time since the trade. When his career comes to an end, he will be most remembered for what he gave to Columbus, the team that originally drafted him from Boston College.
Go back to trade. Atkinson was part of a team led by Blue Jackets who met at Kekalainen’s home to talk about team direction. Although what was said remained a mystery, it was clear that much was said in the audience. It was clear that the team was heading for a reset.
Imagine being in Atkinson’s shoes for a minute. He was still wearing a blue jacket. One night at the draft he was at the Nationwide Arena (I saw him for myself.) He was there with Kent Johnson, Cole Selinger and Carson Sewellman to celebrate the dawn of the new Blue Jacket era drafted in the first round. The future became brighter.
But then in an instant everything changed. What Atkinson knew was suddenly going to be different. He was no longer part of the blue jacket or their bright future. Talk about being blind about leaving a draft party in less than 24 hours. But as Kekalinen said, they would meet for coffee to talk. They did in the end. Both sides left Atkinson without any strong feelings, even understanding the business behind the deal and embracing new opportunities.
Atkinson remains one for the Jake Voresek trade that has benefited both parties. Blue Jackets wanted a big body who could play when the flyers needed a goal scoring sniper. Atkinson entered the season on Thursday night with 23 goals and 50 points. The highest of his 28 assists career. Although it was a bad year for the Flyers, he led them in scoring.
Atkinson could have chosen to be bitter about how his blue jacket expired. But that’s not who he is. Not only has he been to Philadelphia and given the Flyers everything he has, he holds Columbus in high esteem and has no harsh feelings about the trade.
Columbus will be home to Atkinson
Thursday night has been circling the Atkinson calendar since the schedule was first published. That day is finally here. This will be his first game against the Blue Jackets as he has played his entire career in the Rink.
But even though he now has a flyers jersey, Atkinson will not only be in Columbus this summer, he will be back in Columbus full-time when his playing career is over. He says Columbus has a home and will stay that way. He has made many promises in the past and will fulfill those promises when the time comes.
Hockey can sometimes be a brutal business. But in the end, the thing that most people remember most is how they deal with the situation.
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This is especially true for Atkinson. She would always be great in a blue jacket. But thanks to his character and the way he holds Columbus in high esteem, he has elevated himself to the legend of the Blue Jacket. Although she no longer wears their sweaters, she continues to show off the qualities of a blue jacket.
When his name is known to the arena crowd across the country on Thursday, he should be greeted with much joy. He has managed everything with exceptional class and will always have Columbus in his heart.
The game will be played between two Metro opponents on Thursday. But it will also mark a celebration of the greatest blue jackets of all time.
Atkinson is coming home. Hopefully he will be ready for a warm reception as it comes. And it will be emotional for everyone involved.
I am a fully acclaimed author who covers the Columbus Blue Jacket, the Cleveland Monster and Eri Otter as well as the Ontario Hockey League and the NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with hockey writers. I am also the site’s certificate manager.