Colton and the Jets
Our correspondent takes a trip to the show
When my friend and I, along with our respected fathers, were presented with the opportunity to see the Winnipeg Jets play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 14, we had to jump on this potential once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Seeing as approximately 13,000 season tickets have been sold, it was a good friend of ours, Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Brett Clark, that supplied us with four seats in the lower bowl for this Monday night showdown.
Clark was born in Wapella, which is only four hours from Winnipeg. He also lives in Regina during the off-season, so it was nice to go and see a family friend so close to home.
As soon as the doors opened, the fans were ready to rock at the MTS Centre. Walking around the main lobby decked out in our ‘Clark’ Tampa Bay jerseys, I have never seen a wider variety of player names on the back of NHL jerseys in my life. Wheeler, Byfuglien, Ladd, Glass, Kane, and Burmistrov are only a few of the names that we got to see on the fan’s backs. We could instantly tell that these are more than just hockey fans; this team is their life.
When the lights went out prior to the game and the Jets starting lineup was announced, the fans almost screamed louder than a bunch of pre-teens at a Justin Bieber concert – almost. A musical intro of Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me” was overshadowed by all of the fans’ screams and the constant “Go Jets Go” chants that started prior to puck drop and continued throughout the entire game.
I have been to many sold-out sporting events in my life, but this one was unique. Some arenas have mentioned a sellout even though there are still ample open seats clearly available. This sporting event did not have a single seat open. All 15,004 seats were filled with die-hard Winnipeg Jets fans that proudly yelled “True North!” during its appropriate place in the Canadian national anthem. It was this moment that I learned the NHL deserved to be in Canada.
When Evander Kane scored the first goal for the Jets at 15 minutes 49 seconds of the first period, it literally sounded like an atomic bomb of cheers went off. The MTS Centre, even though it was only 1-0 Jets at this point, was officially the loudest NHL arena I have ever experienced. It’s also safe to say that Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay’s goaltender, probably took more heat from the fans after letting in that one goal than we did for wearing the opposing team’s logo into a prideful Jets’ sanctum.
With the Jets ahead 2-0 going into the second period, Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos left his mark on Jets fans. Stamkos was shown on the big screen, faking an injury to draw a penalty. After that, every time Stamkos touched the puck the hostile crowed booed. I turned around to the Jets fans behind us and said, “You guys really don’t let anything go, do you?”
The fan laughed and replied, “Here in Winnipeg, we don’t forget anything.”
Between periods, the fans weren’t really all that bad. A few commented on our Tampa Bay jerseys, saying that we’re probably the only Tampa fans in the building, a few booed us, and the popcorn kid laughed at us when the Jets were up 4-1 at the end of the second period. It’s safe to say that if anyone is going to wear the opposing team’s jersey into the MTS Centre, don’t be afraid of all the passionate fans. They only look scary on TV, but they’re actually very nice in person.
The game was over and the final score was 5-2 for the Jets, and for some reason, the crowd was still buzzing with excitement. I could argue that the most notable feature of the Winnipeg Jets is not Claude Noel, Dustin Byfuglien, or their logo that looks like a design courtesy of the Molson Canadian brewery, but the fans.
When I talked to Clark post-game, even he admitted how intense crowd was and how excited he is to return to Winnipeg for an NHL game.
“The building was electrified, the crowd was loud and into the game,” he said. “It was a very loud and exciting building to play in. For myself personally, it was nice to play in front of family and friends.”