The inaugural season of the Winnipeg Jets is over but the responsibility for taking our team to the next level does not rest solely with Jets management. Citizens of Winnipeg who want our team to attract the kind of players we need to reach the playoffs or Stanley Cup have a major role to play.
NHL teams who achieve the most success are built through the draft but they always benefit from the addition of a couple of key players acquired through free agent signings. In addition to the amount of money offered, a team must also offer an attractive place to live and Winnipeg has been found lacking in this regard despite this past year.
Yes, our fair city has benefited from a major flush of positive publicity because of our rabid support of the Jets. Out-of-town writers have gushed about the overwhelming noise and unique cheers ("True North!" and "Crosby’s better!") that Winnipeg fans have added to a solid rep which began with founding the "white out."
But it’s not over. There are free agents of our own we have to sign, good players who will become available to the team with the most attractive offer, and players we might trade for who might balk at coming here (think Ilya Kovalchuk).
Until recently, the image most NHL players had of Winnipeg was mosquito-infested summer nights where everything closed at 8 p.m. and bitterly cold winters. And they really do not care that we have a world class ballet and symphony.
We all need to help Jets management and captain Andrew Ladd convince new (and existing) players that Winnipeg is the best city in the NHL to pursue their career. We have to build upon and accentuate the positive and downplay the negative.
First stop has to be Grand Beach on the July long weekend. The fine white sand, the dunes, but mostly the incredible beauty of the local wildlife more than makes up for the murky water. A hockey superstar knows he would be the most eligible bachelor in a sea of opportunity.
And we must properly introduce these prospects (prospective Winnipeggers) to our festival season. Nowhere in the world is there a place that has so many festivals that every weekend during the summer there is a different one going on.
But the major thrust is that we stop all this negativity about out city. Winnipeg has everything they could want. We all just have to make sure we don’t keep it a secret.
Don Marks is a Winnipeg-based writer.
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