Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets fans' roar being heard and felt across the NHL

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THE SOUND OF WINNIPEG PRIDE... It's been a week since my nephew David Sinclair graciously treated me to my first Jets game because -- as he told his ol' uncle -- it's something you need to experience.

He was talking about the vibe in the stands at the MTS Centre.

A week later, the Boston Bruins and their media entourage had their own introduction to "The Experience."

So it was that after the Jets upset the streaking Stanley Cup champion Bruins 2-1 Tuesday night, the fans back home in Boston were probably as surprised by the headline on the New England Sports Network's website as they were by the outcome of the game.

"Bruins Discover Quickly That Winnipeg Was Worthy of NHL With Passionate Show Of Support From Fans."

But there was much more praise down in the body of the article by writer Douglas Flynn.

Starting with the lead paragraph:

"The Bruins weren't happy about seeing their 15-game point streak come to an end, but they couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement of the atmosphere in the NHL's latest move back to the future."

The story went on to mention that Winnipeg, with its 15,004 seats, has the smallest building in the league.

"... but it may also be the loudest."

The NESN, which is a regional cable network owned by the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins, then went on to quote the hockey team's towering captain, Zdeno Chara, on his post-game evaluation of The Experience.

"Very passionate fans," Chara said. "A smaller arena so it's much louder. I'm sure they're very excited to have an NHL team and it's pretty obvious they're going to support it."

Bruins coach Claude Julien, who also saluted the Jets' performance Tuesday, went on to join the cheering for the Winnipeg fans.

"It's nice to see the stands full, and when we used to go to Atlanta that wasn't the case," Julien said. "Obviously the fans here certainly love their team and support it well, so I'm glad to see Winnipeg back in the league."

Even Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask -- who had played a couple of games at the MTS Centre when it was the home rink of the AHL's Manitoba Moose -- noticed a big difference with the NHL back in town.

"It gets loud out there," Rask said. "It looks like they've definitely been waiting for the opportunity to have the NHL team in their hometown and cheer for them."

As our own Ed Tait suggested in his own sports report, loud hit the dangerous-decibel range after Bryan Little put the winning puck between Rask's pads, and that brought the fans out of their seats.

"My ears were ringing," Little said. "I couldn't hear anything. Loudest I've ever heard."

I wasn't at the Boston game but, by the sounds of it, the play of both teams gave the fans lots to be loud about.

Especially the Jets, of course, who, when the game starts, must feel as if the fans in the stands are the equivalent of having an extra forward, without having to pull their goalie.

So let's hear it for the fans.

Because of them, because of us, Winnipeg is starting to get a reputation around the NHL as the smallest market with the loudest fans.

And the proudest, too.


-- -- --

SAY A LITTLE PRAYER... Last weekend a first-year student in residence at Canadian Mennonite University was admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat.

Then his heart stopped.

It took time but eventually he was revived, placed on a heart machine and then he underwent an emergency procedure. It's a surgery that, if it failed, meant a heart transplant was the only option. But what adds to the story of one student struggling for his life is what the other students and the university did. Sunday evening, they began gathering for prayer vigils at the residence hall.

Monday afternoon, the prayer vigil went campus-wide. And in the evening, they gathered again to pray for their fellow student.

At last report, the student came through the surgery successfully, is breathing on his own and his parents are with him.

Oh, there's one more thing.

Because of the prayer vigils, CMU, in the person of academic vice-president Earl Davey, extended the deadline for course papers by nearly two days. How many other Canadian universities would do that?

Pray tell.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2011 B1

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