It was just a year ago that I was writing a blog post about the die-hard Jets fans that remained in Winnipeg despite the team leaving over 15 years ago. It turns out their persistence and passion has brought the beloved Jets back home, to the heart of the continent.
It’s an amazing time to be in Winnipeg. Last week CBC hosted a “Welcome Back” party at The Forks, which brought fans from all over the province to the big city. I was told of a family that made the trip all the way from Flin Flon. Rumour has it that over 20,000 people were in attendance. The Molson Hockey House was set up (was I back in Vancouver during the Olympics?) and street hockey games were being played while 3 Days Grace and Bachman and Turner took the stage. Throughout the city, horns were honking, faces were painted, and car flags were waving. You’d think the Jets had just won the Stanley Cup. It made it very clear that if the Jets were to make the playoffs this season, the city would completely shut down with the exception of bars and of course, The Forks.
The Jets played their first game of the regular season against Montreal last night at the MTS Centre, the home of the Jets. Again, the atmosphere and energy were nothing short of a playoff game. Almost every fan was dressed up in Jets gear with signs reading “Stay Jets Stay” and “Welcome home”. Within the first minute of the game, over 15,000 fans were chanting “Car-ey” to throw off the Habs netminder. I, myself, didn’t make it to the game (these tickets were harder to get than Canucks playoff tickets last season!) or even downtown but apparently close to 15% of the city did. And when the buzzer sounded at the end of the third period, with the scoreboard reading “MTL – 5 WPG – 1”, the crowd stood and cheered.
I believe it’s safe to say, with the enthusiasm and pride shown by this city, that the return of the Jets has been long overdue. I may be a Canucks fan but I’m thrilled for this city. In a time when much of the national media is focusing on the violence and crime in Winnipeg, it’s nice for the city to have something to cheer for. Go Jets Go.