Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Logo's unveiling lures mob to shop

'Like Christmas in July' as wait is over

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Patience is the name of the Manitoba hockey fan's game: Fifteen years spent waiting for the team, four weeks for the name.

So what's another two hours in line to be among the first to bear the brand-new Winnipeg Jets logo?

Minutes after the Royal Canadian Air Force-inspired design was splashed on the team's website, hundreds of fans flocked to the newly named Jets Gear store at the MTS Centre for a chance to pick through the very first pile of blue-and-white merchandise.

Never mind the old Manitoba Moose logo that's still above the door: Inside the store, there was little doubt what colours ruled this rush. Boxes were piled high with white and navy hats and T-shirts in grey, navy, blue and white -- but despite those slim offerings, fans shelled out big bucks.

"Five-hundred dollars later," mumbled one man in a business suit as he hustled out the door, hauling three navy bags of merch.

Inside the store -- which is still being renovated -- workers laboured furiously to keep swag flowing onto the shelves, while security guards managed the flow of customers, allowing about 25 people inside at a time.

Hey, someone had to hold back that crowd.

Even three hours after the logo and gear news went public, the line outside the team store still stretched clear from Portage Avenue and Hargrave Street and turned south all the way to Graham Avenue.

To keep the fans well-fed, MTS Centre concession employees popped outside to sell pizza and drinks. Fans, well, they just grinned and settled in for the long haul. "It's like Christmas in July," beamed Nolan Klassen, who just hoped his toddler son would tolerate the wait.

Because the waiting really was the hardest part. For an average of two hours fans stood in the balmy late-afternoon air, clutching whatever they happened to be carrying when they heard the news: a briefcase, a golden retriever, an armload of dry cleaning. "Now I'm going to have to go home and explain to my girlfriend why I'm two hours late," quipped one man, who asked to remain anonymous, as he strolled down Portage Avenue with a bag of shirts and a hat.

Even as some headed home, dozens more were just arriving. Just before 6 p.m., Hector Felix was watching the news when he caught word of the new Jets logo and the merchandise sales. He dashed down to join the tail end of the line at Graham Street with $100 cash in his pocket. "I'm going away with whatever I can afford," said Felix, who happened to be visiting from Berens River.

"When I first saw the logo, I was happy for a new look. It's always time for a change, and after they came back we deserve something like this."

Some city businesses thought fans deserved a little something special, too. Soon after the colours were unfurled, Academy Bowling Lanes announced on Twitter that anyone wearing the new swag would get a free game.

"It's cool to ride the wave. Everybody's excited," manager Nathan Hogg said on Friday evening, adding that the promo was getting lots of attention on social media. "It looks like lots of people are talking about it."

Now, with most of the new team's pieces in place, there's only one thing left to wait for between now, and the first game of the brand-new Winnipeg Jets. "The jersey, I guess," said J.P. Deniset, moments before getting the green light to enter the store. "I think (the logo) will look good on a jersey."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2011 A4

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