THE GIFT OF VISION... He operates the Free Press Fan Forum that's known as The JetStream with Darren Ford, but years before the NHL returned to the city, he was also the visionary voice in the blogosphere wilderness predicting it would happen.
The 34-year-old's vision wasn't confined to just believing in the second coming of the Jets, though. Darren saw a downside, too -- one he recalled in an email that arrived after one of my recent columns about making room for kids at Jets games.
Darren said during the eight years he ran his grassroots Return of the Jets campaign, he heard a barrage of negative comments, including another prediction:
That NHL tickets would be too pricey for a lot of families and their kids.
What that did was raise Darren's consciousness on the issue and on how he could do his part to help.
"So I purchased four season tickets and decided to give two full season tickets to kids that would normally not be able to go."
He also decided the best way to do that was to link the program to the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre and their joint hockey programs.
Kids in the hockey program -- which has been going since the Moose days -- are given bus rides to hockey camps where ice time, equipment and even lunch are supplied.
And now, thanks to Darren's initiative, 41 children and their parents or guardians will have a chance to see live NHL hockey in the program's first season.
As it happened Monday, Darren was at River East Arena to deliver pairs of tickets for the next five Jets games to some of the kids who were there playing hockey.
Soon a complete website will be up featuring some of the kids who go to the games.
The home page for Jakestickets.com is already available. It's named after Darren and wife Kristin's two-year-old son. Why did he name it after his own little boy?
"I thought it would be a great life lesson for him," Darren said Monday.
It's a great life lesson for us all, actually. Or, as Darren wrote in his email: "If I can pass along an entire pair of season tickets, surely the big corporations can do the same for a few of theirs."
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PARTY TIME... Like most other jobs, mine comes with the good, the bad and every so often a few beautiful moments. Recently, my wife Athina and I were privileged to be guests at a pair of house parties that reflect the beauty of two of the city's most important cultures. One was a small, casual gathering at the Riverbend property that former Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples commissioner Paul Chartrand and his wife, Deb Laliberte, have been renting since they were flooded out of their St. Laurent retirement home. The guests of honour were Elijah and Anita Harper, given that he was being awarded an honorary doctorate two days later by the University of Winnipeg. Phil Fontaine, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also dropped by to share the feast, which included pickerel cheeks and bannock, and of course some good ol'-time country music was playing in the background.
The other occasion was a party at the stunning Linden Woods lakeside home of physicians Daya and Chander Gupta. This one was staged for the board of directors of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and featured exquisite East Indian cuisine, musical director Alexander Mickelthwate and a performance by four of the symphony's principal players -- concert master Gwen Hoebig, Karl Stobbe, Daniel Scholz and Yuri Hooker. We managed that invitation because last summer, Daya and Chander Gupta had been my guests at the Free Press News Café after he won the lunch date at a WSO fundraising auction.
Which reminds me:
The Guptas have something else to celebrate this week. Their nephew, Bobby Jindal, who's the son of Chander's younger sister, won re-election as governor of Louisiana on the weekend.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT... Our magical, mystical, Masonic-inspired Hermetic Code Tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building has achieved a big national nod.
The Canadian Tourism Commission added the tour -- which was created by local architectural historian Frank Albo and published in book form by the Free Press -- to its exclusive list of premier tourist destinations. And that could make a world of difference, as the CTC's Signature Experiences Collection is aimed at overseas visitors looking for unique Canadian adventures.
In fact, there is only one other Manitoba destination that has been granted the honour.
Time to move over and make room, you Churchill polar bears.