I finally got to see a Jets game at the MTS Centre recently. The tickets came courtesy of my niece Susan and her husband Kevin -- the Free Press has never invited me to sit in its box -- and before that gift I didn't think I would get a chance to see a game during the first year of the Return of the Team.
But I did and it was great. The Jets won, which was good, but it was also mostly incidental. Win or lose, the odds of them making the playoffs were somewhere between slim and none.
As it turns out, none won; the Jets were eliminated, as the smart money thought they would be, and the Stanley Cup playoffs began this week without them.
Next year, perhaps. There is always a next year in Winnipeg which, I guess, is one of the reasons that keeps us here.
But if the game was incidental in the grand scheme of NHL standings, it wasn't because it was not a good game. It was because it is the arena and fans that provide the main show. The hockey, at least for a first-time attendee arriving late in a lost season, was the sideshow. The main event was the arena itself and the fans who filled it.
Those fans are notoriously noisy -- the MTS Centre might be the loudest arena on the NHL circuit, an indication, perhaps, of the enthusiasm the city has for the Jets.
Another indication might be the fact fans cheerfully pay $8 for a plastic cup of beer and up to $11 for a hot dog. These people are hockey fans. So raise your plastic cup -- here's to next year in Winnipeg.