Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, I stopped my car near a construction site on Kenaston Boulevard. The machines were still and the men in hard hats were posed like statues. Their radio was playing at a volume normally reserved for airplane engines.
They were waiting for the The Announcement.
Half an hour later, I was at Urgent Care. The flat-screen TV was on and three orderlies were raptly watching. The Announcement had just been made. The screen flashed to Portage and Main, to The Forks, to Mark Chipman. "The sun has come out," observed one man solemnly, as though The Announcement was a portent of all good things coming to town.
The break in the weather wasn't heaven-sent, any more than were David Thomson and Mark Chipman. All were welcome nonetheless, especially by the crowds gathered for the long-anticipated news.
Throughout the day, as I was listening to the radio, watching TV and driving through the city's neighbourhoods, there was talk of The Announcement. High school students in St. James, kids who would have barely been out of diapers when the Jets left, wore brand new Jets' jerseys. Guys in expensive suits were hooting and hollering downtown. There was hockey talk in my dad's nursing home and at the grocery store.
It was one of those moments we'll remember, like where we were when John Lennon was shot or when the Twin Towers were struck.
There was a swelling of chests and a thumping expression of pride. We were something again, these displays said. The Announcement was made and we were whole. Winnipeg was back in the big leagues.
I agree with my colleague, Bart Kives, that an NHL team can't "save" Winnipeg any more than the loss of one sunk us. To the contrary, it's the success of the city over the past decade-and-a-half that allows us this do-over.
The return of a team will not cause the sun to shine over Winnipeg.
We have already been saved, as hard as that is for the self-critical to accept. We did it ourselves.
The Announcement is a sweet victory for the diehard fans and a bit of a boost to any Winnipegger tired of people asking how we can possibly live here.
Realistically, it's not going to affect most of us at all. The powers that be are trying to sell 13,000 season tickets, a small per cent of the city's population. You'll need disposable income, a burning desire to watch NHL hockey and the time to attend all the home games to buy in.
We should be able to scrape up 13,000 people willing to plunk down their Visa cards. I've got to admit that when I have money to spend on professional sports it usually goes to the Blue and Gold. They began selling season tickets Wednesday and I can only hope the good news for puck enthusiasts doesn't damage the Bombers.
The Announcement doesn't make me more or less proud of my hometown. It doesn't affect my love for the CFL. I just like any acts of solidarity, spontaneous or otherwise, and Tuesday gave people a chance to rally, party and rejoice. No one was lost for conversation this week. Few would dare publicly admit if they didn't give a rat's rump a team is returning.
I loved Winnipeg before the Jets, after they left town and now that the NHL is coming back. My Winnipeg doesn't need a version of the Jets. But I sure understand that a lot of you were standing a little taller Tuesday morning.
Party on, dudes. Just don't forget we had a lot to be proud of before The Announcement.