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The Winnipeg Jets

IN the beginning, the city was without form and void of an NHL franchise, and darkness was over the face of the downtown.

Then Mark Chipman said: "Let there be Jets," and ever since, Winnipeggers have been living in a paradise.

A real love affair has sprung up between Winnipeg and its Jets. Fans shout "True North!" during the anthem. Players raise their sticks in salute after victorious home games.

On game day, it looks like the city has installed a dress-code bylaw: Thou shalt wear blue, white and red with a maple leaf and jet motif.

So where has all this love gotten us? Well, after Tuesday night's win over the Panthers, Winnipeg had 83 points. At the same time last season, the Atlanta Thrashers had 80 points (they went on to lose their last two games of the season).

Both last year's Thrashers and this year's Jets missed the playoffs.

So... a few more points. That's what we got for the gazillions in merch sales, the hoarse voices, the pride and the mutual admiration.

Was it worth it? Hell, yes. The love flows strong this early in a relationship.

But there is a fine line between love and hate. If the team misses the playoffs again next year, will those same adoring fans suddenly become very demanding fans?

Maybe. But building a good team -- and a good relationship -- takes time. "It's a long-term process. We have to build this slow and steady," Mark Chipman told Free Press sports columnist Gary Lawless this week.

The team owner went on to cite Nashville as the best example for Winnipeg to follow.

"They draft well and develop and provide a stable environment that fosters winning."

Sounds like a plan -- and just think of the alternatives. We could follow the example of that other team that sports a maple leaf. Let's hope we never succumb to that temptation.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 J2

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