Nash to have No. 61 retired by Blue Jackets on March 5

Rick Nash will have his No. 61 retired by the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 5 before a game against the Boston Bruins at Nationwide Arena.

The forward, who will be the first Blue Jackets player to receive the honor, retired from the NHL after the 2018-19 season. He is the Blue Jackets leader in games played (674), goals (289), assists (258) and points (547) and played with Columbus for nine seasons from 2002-2012, including the last four as captain. He was traded to the New York Rangers on July 23, 2012.

“If future generations look up at the 61, I hope they can learn the story of what I tried to do to grow the game in Columbus, and what I tried to do on the ice each night was bring a good effort and excitement for our fans,” Nash said.

Personally, the honor brings Nash full circle, he said.

“To be honest, I just don’t feel like I had proper closure on my career, especially my time in Columbus,” Nash said. “Coming back and getting a job here helped a lot with that, getting the fans and the people of the city’s acceptance. But this truly feels like the closure I think I needed on my career, my family needed. That’s the biggest thing that came to mind, it’s the perfect end to the chapter.”

Nash was named the Blue Jackets director of player development in June 2021 after spending two seasons as a special assistant to the general manager.

“It means everything to me and my family,” Nash said of returning to the Blue Jackets after retirement as a player. “The way everything went down when I left Columbus, it would have been easy just to pack up and never come back to Columbus, Ohio, unless we played the Blue Jackets. But I had a love for this city. I can go back home to Toronto, I could go live down south. But Columbus feels like home to me.”

Selected with the No. 1 pick by Columbus in the 2002 NHL Draft, Nash scored at least 30 goals in seven of his nine seasons with Columbus and won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the leading goal scorer in the NHL in 2003-04 when he scored 41 goals in 80 games (tied with Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla).

“This is incredibly exciting, not only for Rick and his family, but for our entire organization and our great fans,” Blue Jackets president John Davidson said. “Only one player can be the first to have their jersey retired by a franchise and with everything that Rick has meant to the Blue Jackets it is fitting that he is the one.”

Nash scored 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 74 games during his rookie season in 2002-03 to finish third in voting for the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.

“Rick Nash was the face of our franchise and our best player for a decade and represented our club on and off the ice with excellence, class and humility,” Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell said. “No one is more deserving of this honor than he and we are looking forward to celebrating Rick and his family in what will be a historic and memorable night for all of us on March 5th.”

Nash scored 805 points (437 goals, 368 assists) in 1,060 NHL games during 15 NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets, Bruins and New York Rangers and was selected to six NHL All-Star games. He scored 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 89 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“I loved my time in New York and I’m very happy that I got to see another organization and got to play for an Original Six, said Nash, who was traded by the Rangers to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 25,2018. “But in saying that, I always felt like I was a Blue Jacket. You know? I feel like me and my family invested so much in this city and the Blue Jackets, and the McConnell Family invested so much in me, that it always felt like I was a Blue Jacket. You know, this is where I signed all my contracts. I never signed with another team.

“So, did I envision the number going up? Probably not, but the way everything worked out, I think it was pretty amazing. I feel pretty lucky to have it.” independent correspondent Craig Merz contributed to this report

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