Welcome back to our 2020 Columbus Blue Jackets Q&A series. In this new series, we are going to talk with different members of the Blue Jackets’ community about hockey, their jobs, how they’re handling things today and much more. In part one, anthem singer Leo Welsh stopped by. Today, a familiar Blue Jackets’ personality was kind enough to chat with us about current life and so much more.
Life can sometimes be all fun and games, right? Well when you go to a Columbus Blue Jackets’ game at Nationwide Arena, you get just that. It’s fun and there’s games galore. Not only do you get the pulse-pounding excitement of the Blue Jackets, you get entertained during stoppages.
For over 16 years now (can you believe that?), Mr. Mike Todd has been the voice behind the in-game entertainment during Blue Jackets’ games at Nationwide Arena. Whether he’s trying to find the loudest cheering section or trying to help a fan win prizes by knowing their prices Price-Is-Right style, Todd has kept fans wildly entertained for many seasons.
Of course, we have no games to go to now because of Covid-19. But for Todd, life remains busy. The only difference for him is he doesn’t have to go to Nationwide Arena at this point. Still, this whole experience has given Todd what he calls “restored faith in humanity.”
A Dairy Queen Life
What does he mean by that? As many of you know, Todd runs multiple Dairy Queen stores in the Columbus area. He operates stores in Pickerington and in East Columbus on Noe Bixby Road. As he tells us, he stays busy with both stores. He also expresses his thankfulness towards those that continue to give him their business.
“I am so thankful and so overwhelmed at the support from our community,” Todd said. “They have been truly supporting our businesses and supporting the people I employ and it’s been very fulfilling from a personal side and a business side. I’m kinda overwhelmed at the support we’ve been getting from our communities. It restores my faith in humanity.”
Because Dairy Queen serves food, they are considered an essential business these days. Todd discusses how his stores are doing and how entities like Door Dash, Uber Eats and others have saved his business during Covid-19.
“We have two Dairy Queens, one in Pickerington and we have one on the east side of Columbus on Noe Bixby Road. I’ve been in the Dairy Queen business for close to 22 years now that I’ve been doing it full-time. At our peak season, we employ over 100 people. Right now between the two stores, we have over 50 employees at least. It has been a challenge getting the stores adapted to the new reality that we’re living in at least until we can get a handle on this situation that we’re in. We’re doing delivery, that’s the one thing these delivery services, Uber Eats, Door Dash, Postmates: they’ve been saving our business. People have the convenience and piece of mind knowing that they can use those services without even doing outside their door. And of course our drive thru’s and we’ll maybe get a few people through our lobby. Inside the Pickerington store, I’ve got things marked off every six feet. We’re actually working on getting a plastic barrier at the front counter. I’m having a friend of mine build something for me because I saw a couple of the grocery stores do that and I saw some of the banks doing that now. That’s probably something I should do as well.”
You can see just how much Todd cares not only about his business but his employees and customers. He like many in Ohio are following the guidelines leadership has put in place. He is setting an example in safety that resonates with everyone.
“The thing that I make sure is a personal responsibility is that I’m following all the guidelines that governor and Dr (Amy) Acton has put forth for us. There are people in the community that look to others. They say it looks like Mike is following the rules, hopefully that influences someone in a positive way to also do something. When I go out to a public place whether it’s the bank or some supply shopping for the Dairy Queens, I put my mask on. It’s making sure that I’m always washing my hands. When I get home, first thing I do is go straight to the laundry room, take my Dairy Queen clothes off and throw them right in the washer. Then I go and take a shower. I scrub myself like I’m Lady MacBeth. Then I think of all the people who are on the front lines medically, the nurses, the doctors, the medical staff. I can’t even fathom what they’re going through. And then someone like Leo Welsh who runs a nursing home. He was my hero before, boy he is my hero now.”
Todd’s Advice For Fans
Welsh is definitely a hero. The fact that they keep in close contact with each other signifies something of great importance during this time. It’s being able to stay connected despite not being able to physically do it. Todd and Welsh will exchange texts just making sure that the other is doing ok. That’s common amongst those close to the Blue Jackets. They are an extremely close knit group. That’s the thing Todd hopes others can grasp on to during these uncertain times. These are some excellent words of wisdom.
“Treasure what you have,” Todd says. “If you have to stay home, treasure the moments you have with your family. If you’re out there working hard out in public, thank you. Thank you for continuing to serve. All of us being Jackets fans, we miss sports. We miss the camaraderie and the collective experience that is the Blue Jackets. My biggest advice is to keep in touch with people. Even if we can’t have the physical contact, call someone. Contact them on social media, joke with them online. We can still have that connection. When this does end, whenever that is, we will hopefully appreciate what we have as far as that connection. I cannot wait for that first game back. I don’t care if it’s just a practice or pick-up game. It’s just going to feel so good to be back.”
Todd’s Start As A Game Host
And we will be back at some point. When that will be is still anyone’s guess. But we will be back. When we do get back, Todd will resume his role as the in-game host. He doesn’t take any of this for granted. Considering his start 16 years ago, he went from trying out at a preseason game to winning the job outright after doing such a good job. He recapped how it all went down.
“Back in the summer of 2003, a friend of mine who is a season ticket holder saw a posting for in-arena host on the Blue Jackets website. She knew that I’d DJ’ed weddings. I used to work in radio. I’m pretty good in front of a crowd, at least I had all that experience. Because you have to try out for that. There were 15-16 people who auditioned and then they narrowed it down to three people. We all worked a preseason game in 2003. Then I got the gig. I still pinch myself. They’re not asking why are we paying him? He’s having too much fun.”
You can tell every moment for him is fun. You can hear it in his voice. He has a passion for what he does to entertain fans. Over the years, stories come about that will never be forgotten. We asked him if any have stood out to him over all these years. He started talking about his daughter and the importance of the Blue Jackets.
“My youngest daughter, who is now 16, was born in my first year with the Blue Jackets. She’s never known a world without the Blue Jackets. That still amazes me.”
I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that does it? The Blue Jackets have helped bond Todd’s family then and now. But that’s only the beginning for stories.
“Hockey Fights Cancer, Military Appreciation Nights. I can remember Ryan Salmons and his fight with cancer. We finally made the playoffs. Getting to see the look on his face even though the Blue Jackets got swept by Detroit, the fact that he was there and got to experience it, a month later he passed. Also visiting cancer patients in the hospital. I make it a point to look around and appreciate the history that I am experiencing. So many little things that build up to that singular feeling of gratitude.”
And then there’s always your first time. Imagine your first day on the job and someone comes up to you out of nowhere that you’ve admired your whole life. This happened to Todd on his very first regular season game night with the Blue Jackets.
“My first opening night in 2003, I grew up an Edmonton Oilers fan. I’m in the penalty box with Greg Murray and we’re getting ready to go out to center ice to give our opening night speech. So I’m in the penalty box for warmups and Mark Messier skates right up to me. He’s warming up but you have to play it cool. You can’t go all Chris Farley and go ‘Oh my God I’m excited.’ The fact that I am this close to someone that I watched and admired. That may be the coolest part is how great these people are.”
That’s what it’s all about for Todd. Because of everything he has done, he’s been able to experience a bunch of little things to help get to that level of gratitude. But it’s the people he’s known and met along the way that have meant everything for him. It’s perhaps his favorite part of the job.
““I love rubbing elbows and saying hi to Rick Nash in the hallway and seeing Jared Boll and talking to Jean-Luc Grand Pierre. And endlessly teasing Greg Murray to no end. That’s our relationship. We chirp each other. Todd Sharrock, the head of PR, he actually drove down from New Albany to come to my Dairy Queen. He didn’t have to do that. He is a great man. He is a friend. I adore him. That’s the great thing about Blue Jackets’ fans going through the drive-thru. Hey Mike, how you doing? We miss you. There was a police officer that went through the drive-thru and I made him a special blizzard. He posted it on social media (laughing). Those are the things that are going to get us through and to the other side is the generosity of people and kindness. A little kindness goes a long way. It’s easy to fall into that trap of frustration and being self-centered. When people make a small gesture of kindness it means everything.”
The ultimate show of respect is what others will do for you. Many fans come to Todd’s Dairy Queen to buy ice cream and to pay respects. Some go out of their way to visit his store. And then Todd pays it back and then some as seen by what he did for the police officer. He’s living his best life and is enjoying every moment of it.
Todd’s Typical Day
So what happens in a typical day for him? He tells us.
“A normal day for me is I’ll get up in the morning. I will check in on my stores. On a gameday, I will work the lunch shift. Then I’ll go home, get cleaned up and take off my Dairy Queen costume and put on my Blue Jackets costume. Then I’ll head down to the arena. We’ll have a production meeting at 5. We’ll go over the game plan, what’s going to go on that night with the contests, if we need to rehearse anything. Then after that we probably got about an hour and a half before gametime. We’ll do the Rink Report. We do the intro and then Bob (McElligott) & Jody (Shelley) will get into the nuts and bolts of the game. After that it’s game on. Leo sings the anthem and away we go.”
And as for who plans out what happens during the night? Todd works with some excellent people there too.
“Those are planned in advance directly by me is Jason Abbadie and then Derek Dawley. They’ll have everything scripted out and ready to go. Basically they have the game plan.”
Then when the night is over, Todd does one final check of his stores to make sure everything is ok and then he goes home. When the sun rises the next day, he does it all over again.
Oh & the All-Star Game Too
That in and of itself would make for a busy life. But for Todd, that is just the beginning. You may remember seeing Todd at the All-Star Game, right? Starting in 2015 and still going strong today, Todd is the emcee of the NHL Mascot Showdown. How did he find time for that? How did he get this opportunity?
“That started in 2015 when we (Columbus) hosted the NHL-All Star Game. They (the NHL) basically said we can’t pay you but if you’d like you to be a part of this, you’re welcome to do it. I said absolutely. The next year, I kept in contact with the folks from the NHL and said listen, I’m willing to drive down to Nashville, pay for my own hotel, do all of these things next year in Nashville. Eventually they said yes we want you to be part of this again. Then after that, at the end of the Nashville All-Star Game, the NHL said we’d like you to come to Los Angeles next year. So I’ve been a part of it ever since. I work with an incredible group of people, the people who work with the mascots, the mascots themselves, all are incredible performers, entertainers, fans of the game. They’re great people. It’s good to work with them behind the scenes. Getting to go to an NHL All-Star Game is an amazing celebration of sport and the fans and the history of the game. It’s the fact that they want me to be a part of that. This past year, my wife was able to come to St. Louis with me. The fact that I get to travel to amazing cities, San Jose, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and this year St. Louis. It’s just an absolute privilege to be able to work with some of the best people. The other cool thing, since Tampa, I get to work with the in-arena hosts of the other teams. I get to meet people. It seems that my arsenal of friends grows. It’s so amazing that I get to do this.”
Heck, Todd even got in a picture with WWE Superstar CM Punk in Los Angeles.
A Lesson In Kindness
But through it all, Todd maintains a proper perspective about the current world. “It’s unchartered territory. I’m learning to adapt. My family is learning to adapt. I’ll give a quick shoutout to our state leadership. We get those daily updates. I’m sure there’ll be time later to go over the game film to see what we did right and what we did wrong. It’s just something we all have to adjust to. I’m one of the lucky ones. I still have a job that I can go to. It’s fulfilling from the standpoint of serving the community. The positive feedback I get from them really recharges my battery and helps me get through the day.”
We can all learn a lesson from Todd here. He is using his current job at Dairy Queen to help his community. They have returned the favor by ordering from his stores and giving him positive feedback. As he said, it is kindness that is the driving force here. Even just a little kindness can have a profound impact.
So until we meet again, Todd will continue to do his part to help us get through these times. Once we meet again, we’ll hear his familiar voice welcoming us back home to Nationwide Arena. Todd is not only one of the biggest parts of Blue Jackets’ history, he’e one of the most genuine people you can meet. It’s no wonder he is beloved all over the NHL.