Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's not about winning or losing, at least not yet

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The home team had just lost 5-1, but try finding someone who cared.

"Perfect," said Bob McCullough, while sauntering out of the MTS Centre in the wake of the Winnipeg Jets' 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, marking the return of the NHL to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence.

McCullough wasn't alone. Nary a "boo" could be heard from the sellout crowd of 15,004, whose only chance to explode was at 2:27 of the third period, when Nik Antropov made history scoring the Jets' first goal of the team's reincarnation.

"It's great to have them back," said McCullough, from Treherne, who attended the Jets last game in 1996 at the Winnipeg Arena, a playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings. "They're going to have a year or two honeymoon."

McCullough spotted one distinctive difference in Sunday's crowd.

"When Montreal used to come (to Winnipeg), half the fans had red jerseys," he said. "Today it was all blue and white."

Just like Kaden Daoust, who was wearing a Jets tuque, carrying a Jets mini-stick and wearing a Jets jersey... and sucking on a soother held around his neck with a Jets lanyard.

Daoust is two years old. And his father, Charles, was determined his young son would be in attendance for posterity.

"Win, lose or draw, fans are here for the experience," Daoust, 45, said. "We're just celebrating the fact that they're here. We're not expecting a Stanley Cup in the first year."

Daoust described the game as "going to a social where you know everybody." The biggest challenge, he added, was getting his son to stop chanting, "Go Moose go" and start chanting, "Go Jets go."

Naturally, fans spilling out of the MTS Centre at the final whistle were left much more subdued than when they'd entered. There were still a few high-fives, but memories and mementos seemed to be the first priority.

"It was great being here," said Gerry Bonham, who got last-minute tickets for himself and his 18-year-old son, Peyton. "I got to sit at centre ice, Row 5. It was unreal. The game really was anticlimactic. Just to be near the ice and hear the fans chanting, 'Go Jets go' and being with my son...."

The Jets will now embark on a two-game road trip, to Chicago then Phoenix, before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 17.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2011 A7

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