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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Welcome to Winnipeg!

Ah a long wait has come to an end, 15 years after the city of Winnipeg had their hockey team ripped from their midst and moved to Phoenix, hockey returned to the city of Winnipeg. Sunday marked the historic day that hockey was back in Winnipeg. After a couple years of speculation that the Phoenix Coyotes would likely be heading back to Winnipeg or even to Hamilton, the NHL finally caved and gave Winnipeg their beloved NHL team the Jets back, but it wasn't the Phoenix team that had originally left Winnipeg coming back, it was the Atlanta Thrashers. A team that was in big trouble financially and had a dwindling fan base. Sunday October 9 was a time to rejoice as hockey was being played in Winnipeg again.
If you were to have traveled to Winnipeg on Sunday I don't think you would have found a single person anywhere on the street; they were either at the historic games, or huddled around TV's watching from their homes. It all fell into place; a new general manager, a new head coach, new arena, and new fans. Unfortunately for the city of Winnipeg with inherit the Atlanta Thrashers, they inherit much of the roster that missed the post season last year. The excitement had finally mounted and it was time for the puck to drop.
"There's a real genuine excitement. I think it's a pure excitement. I don't even know how to put it," Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "It's the excitement of a little kid at Christmas, I guess."

But on Sunday afternoon at 5 the city seemed to stand still and cheer for their team has returned. Not only was it a surreal moment for the fans but the players also were caught in the moment; "Looking back at it, it was a pretty surreal moment," Scheifele said. "To think back and say I played in an NHL game, and throughout the years look back and see how many people you played with and how many people you played against... It just kind of gives you the chills to think you made it there and were able to play in an NHL game."Yeah, it was probably when they announced all our names before the game. There was the smoke, the big lights... it was pretty unreal. I was like big-eyed with my mouth open. It was a fun moment and something I'll always remember, for sure." For the veterans that were with the club in Atlanta it will be a new experience, playing in front of a packed house every game, compared to the empty building in Atlanta. It was a seen to remember, fans came early and were loud right up to puck drop, Rick Rypien’s mother, Shelley was invited to drop the ceremonial puck after an emotional tribute to the late NHLer and the Prime Minister even unveiled a special 50 cent coin marking the event, and when fans saw the top draft pick from this past draft Mark Scheifele they cheers got louder, the The fans carried the excitement once the game began, with chant's of "Carey, Carey" and boos whenever P.K Subban touched the puck.
But now its time to actually drop the puck..... The Canadians wanted to score early and silence the crowd at MTS center, and they did; Michael Cammalleri stepped up and ripped a wrist shot past Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec 3:05 into the first period. In the end when the smoke was all clear the Jets had fallen to the Canadians by a score of 5-1. “It’s a big moment for the city,” said Ladd after the game. “Fans have been waiting for 15 years.“Pretty disappointing to give that performance,” Ladd continued referring to the dismal team play. “We’re just sloppy is the best way to describe it.” So who scored the lone jets goal? Nik Antropov, the former Toronto Maple Leafs scored the historic first goal for the new 2.0 Jets. So things didn't exactly work out like they were supposed to; Cammalleri wasn't supposed to score the opening goal, the jets weren't supposed to lose 5-1 and the first goal was supposed to be score by a true Canadian. But the fans were okay with the out come, because hockey is back in Winnipeg and hopefully back to stay!

Some have dubbed the return of hockey to Winnipeg as "Canada's Best Comeback", as it seemed all but lost to have professional hockey played in Winnipeg again. At the end of the last game played April 28 1996, it was described as a sad moment, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the building,” Meech said. “You could look around the rink, and all the fans were crying. You could look down on the ice surface, and the players were crying. So it was a pretty emotional thing for a young kid." 13,000 seasons tickets sold out in 17 minutes, that was the agreement, fans had to sell out in season tickets for up to 5 years in order for the Jets to come back. Fans had no problem doing that and the tickets were almost all sold out. “It’s a testimony not just to the team. It’s a testimony to the community, to the country. I think we all appreciate that there’s heartfelt connection to the sport and to the principles of integrity and attributes of courage, determination. You look at the fortitude of the people within the province and the country, particularly in these days. The team is a reflection of their struggles and how they surmount those struggles day in and day out.” its all about the future now for the Jets; a new team, a new generation, a new future. Kind of funny that the game was played on the Canadian thanksgiving and it featured 2 Canadian teams, this thanksgiving Jets fans truly had something to be thankful for. There is no question that this country loves our hockey!! It was a historic night, a night people will be able to tell their children and grandchildren about and its great for the city of Winnipeg and the Jets fans.

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