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Brothers enjoy the Jets, two cities apart

One attends historic game in Winnipeg, the other in Ohio

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Two brothers in two cities witnessed hockey history Tuesday night.

Winnipeg Jets fans Ian and Lyle Buckingham both attended the Jets-Columbus Blue Jackets split squad game in their respective cities.

Lyle Buckingham, 44, was in Columbus, Ohio. His brother Ian, 36, was in Winnipeg.

"We're both really excited we're attending the split squad game," Lyle said by phone from Columbus before the pucks dropped. The brothers planned to keep in touch as Jets history unfolded.

"We'll text back and forth for sure," Lyle said before the game.

The pipeline inspector moved to Ohio in 2007 and has been going to hockey games there for three years. Ian was a Manitoba Moose season ticket holder and now a Jets one.

They decided to witness the return of the Jets in their home cities.

"He thought it would be historic," said Lyle. "It was very easy for me to get pre-season tickets," he said in Columbus.

In Winnipeg, Ian was prepared to get the full Jets experience and make it last as long as he could.

"I'm going home for an early dinner and to get some shut-eye," Buckingham said hours before the game. He wanted to be well-rested for the bus ride to the arena.

"I think it'll be the first time I ever got on a transit bus," Ian said. "Half the fun might be on the way there and home."

For weeks, people have been asking Ian if he was excited about the "Big Day." He'd been waiting 15 years for it, said the Jets fan, who got married on Saturday. He and his bride, Ami, were going to the game together.

"I don't know if there could be a bigger deal," said the newlywed Jets fan.

"It's going to be really great -- especially when we beat them in both places."

Back in Columbus, Lyle said it was the presence of an NHL team there that was one of the things that lured him to move to the Ohio city. Now, Winnipeg is looking a lot better to him.

"If I ever retire back home, I'm glad there's a team there now."

Lyle was in Winnipeg on the weekend for his brother's wedding and said the city feels better than when he left four years ago. "You could tell there was good vibe."

That "good vibe" was palpable at the MTS Centre Tuesday night -- even before the game started.

"You feed off that energy," said Steve Ross, who drove in from Morden for the game with his son, Jesse, 13.

"I think it's a great experience to be here with your kid and to experience NHL hockey," said Ross, who scored Jets season tickets online. "Definitely," said Jesse, who was expecting it to get loud.

"It's going to be fast," said Rennie Thomas, who drove in from Traverse Bay to take his 12-year-old grandson, Christopher Fontaine, to his first NHL game.

It's a 110-kilometre trip each way, one that they'd made several times to see the Manitoba Moose play in Winnipeg. Thomas paid a small fortune for their Jets tickets on Kijiji.

"This is a special event," said the grandfather.

"I'm excited," said his grandson.

"All the kids in school are excited for the Jets," said the Grade 7 student at Walter Whyte School.

For one Jets fan, it was bittersweet.

Ryan Kiernicki worked on the stats crew with the Manitoba Moose for five seasons. When they heard the Jets and the NHL were coming back, they thought they'd be working on the stats crew for Jets games.

"We were all excited," said Kiernicki.

He was passed over for the crew by the NHL, along with another stats crew veteran who didn't get to keep his job.

"I was pretty disappointed," said Kiernicki standing not far from the Timothy Eaton statue as fans rubbed its toe for good luck on their way into the arena.

The former stats crew member was trying to look on the bright side, waiting for the Jets to take to the ice.

"Now I'll get to watch it as a fan. It'll be a little more exciting."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2011 A6

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