Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Famous face from demise of Jets now has big smile

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LONG ago, a little boy plodded away from The Forks, head down, with his disappointed dad, joining thousands of others making their way from a Save the Jets rally.

That night in May 1995, the little boy -- earlier caught on camera by a Free Press photographer at the rally yelling for the Jets to stay -- breathed a wish that his beloved NHL team would return.

Someday.

Well, someday came Tuesday for Shaun Jasper, now 25.

True North Sports & Entertainment, led by local businessman Mark Chipman and billionaire David Thomson of Toronto, announced they are bringing the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg in time for the 2011-12 NHL season.

Jasper and his buddies hit Winnipeg's most famous corner Tuesday, slipping away from work to celebrate the news.

"Me and my colleagues had to take time off to participate at Portage and Main," said Jasper on Wednesday.

Now a husband with dreams of fatherhood, he has a new wish -- that someday he'll take his kids to the games.

Later at home, Jasper said he and his wife shared a hallmark moment as they surfed the news.

"My wife's a hockey fan and we were watching the news and she started to shed a tear," Jasper said. "She knows when I was young that going to the Jets games was how I bonded with my father and my brothers. She knows when we have kids that I want to take our kids to the games.

"I think it got to her."

His mother, Kim Jasper, cherishes the photo of her son at The Forks, one face that stands out among thousands.

"My son Shaun was nine years old when he appeared on the front page of the Free Press with his name in the (caption) -- flanked by tens of thousands of people at The Forks yelling, 'Stay Jets Stay!' " the mother recalled.

Shaun can't find the right words to describe the intensity of his feelings now that the NHL is back.

The words he uses, though, let you glimpse the boy he used to be -- the one with the wish: "It's like the day they left, you're wishing they'd come back. And they finally came back."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2011 A3

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