IT was the day so many had circled on their calendars for days, months... even years.
But for Winnipeg Jets' co-owner Mark Chipman it was more than just that. It was the culmination of years of hard work in the community, in hockey board rooms and at the downtown rink he was so instrumental in getting built.
Yes, Oct. 9 will go down in history as one of this province's great sporting moments. And no one likely enjoyed the moment more than the Jet boss.
"I'm very grateful," said Chipman Sunday, prior to the historic opening face-off between the Jets and Montreal Canadiens. "It's an outpouring of emotion that has probably been many years coming.
"I keep getting asked the question in many different ways, shapes and forms and I don't know how to answer it, to be honest with you. I have tough time articulating or describing how everybody is feeling and how I'm feeling."
The Jets honoured Rick Rypien before the game and Chipman admitted the moment was going to bring him to tears. Chipman also said he was nervous, but the emotional investment from the community made this game different than the opening of the MTS Centre or the first game of the Manitoba Moose.
That was obvious when the Jets skated out for the pre-game skate to a thunderous roar and throughout the game.
"I'm glad that people feel so good about this," he said.
"This is a great city and it's been great for a long time and I think it became even greater in the years after the NHL left because so many thought we were going to roll up the sidewalks."
Interestingly, Chipman got a sense of how big this day was going to be when attendance was taken at the pre-game lunch. Asked how he spent his morning, Chipman joked:
"Well, I had my regular lunch with the Prime Minister, the ambassador, the Premier. No, it was remarkable. It wasn't my regular lunch crew, it was quite humbling."
Among the guests was Montreal Canadiens owner and president Geoff Molson.
"I've been travelling through this business for 15 years and trying to observe and look at organizations and the Montreal Canadiens are the gold standard and something that we one day aspire to be," said Chipman.
"I joked with him that when I was a kid my two favourite teams were the Boston Bruins and whoever was playing Montreal.
"But I can't begin to tell you how humbling it is to be a part of the National Hockey League."
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