Cleat Geeks

A Man with a Vision

If you could think of one person in your city that has changed it more than most who would that man or woman be? Would it be a mayor, community activist, or group of individuals? For many in Columbus, particularly sports fans, that man is one who was not an elected official, not an activist group out to promote change, but a small town steel manufacturer. Yes, there are many important people that have made their mark on the Arch City, but I’m merely speaking of the man who brought one of the nation’s major sports to Ohio’s capital.

John H. McConnell was born May 10,1923 in Pughtown, WV located on a stretch of land that seperates Ohio and Pennsylvania an hour outside Pittsburgh. He was born into a steel working family that would one day endure the great depression, one that only believed in hard work. Leaving home at the age of 18, McConnell joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving on the USS Saratoga, one of the Navy’s first aircraft carriers.

After serving three years in the Pacific, McConnell returned home to marry his high school sweetheart, Peggy Rardin. He returned to school using his G.I. bill, attending Michigan State University, graduating with a major in business. McConnell loved sports and even played football for the Spartans, earning a scholarship along the way.

Just as his father did, McConnell would soon find a living in the steel industry, using his 1952 Oldsmobile as collateral for his first business loan. It was 1955 and  in a booming economy Mr. McConnell opened the doors at Worthington Industries, starting an organization that would be known for more than just steel.

The three initial years were the hardest, working hard only to make a mediocre profit. Throughout the next 10-15 years ‘’Mr. Mac’’ sprouted roots around the Midwest on his way to celebrating 100 million dollars in sales in 1976. A company that started small would quickly become a $3 billion dollar company employing 8,000 people in 10 countries.

At the age of 73, McConnell decided that it was time for him to move on and retired from Worthington in 1996, leaving the company to his son. Worthington Industries went on to fund charities throughout the city, as McConnell Sr. did when he was in charge. Known as one of Columbus’ most generous citizens, Mr. Mac donated to local OhioHealth, funding the McConnell Heart Hospital. McConnell would also later start the Blue Jackets Foundation, which continues to help families in the area today. The foundation funds parks, as well as many other things around metropolitan Columbus.playground

Mr. Mac would find a vision come to light in June 1997 when the NHL decided to start an expansion team in town, bringing the league to 30 teams. McConnell would go on to be an active participant in the public eye until his death on April 25, 2008. The Blue Jackets would wear a JHM patch on their jerseys throughout the year and would go on to their first Stanley Cup Playoff entry.Since 2008 there has been an All Star game played, draft held, and Columbus has transformed in to quite the hockey town.jhm

Mr. Mac would be a proud man to see where the Jackets are headed, the first major professional sports team in Columbus bringing spectators from all around to the city. A movement Mr. Mac started is transferring many into hockey fans and bringing a significant amount of interest to a sport that is growing rapidly across the nation.

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