Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It is the winter of our content

Jets have won special place in our hearts

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Maybe they get in and maybe they don't, but whatever happens in the next 22 games can't change the fact this has been one helluva ride.

These Winnipeg Jets won't win the Stanley Cup. They're not that good.

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Plucky and getting better by the day, but still with a long way to go. Playoffs or not, however, this group will always hold a special place in our hearts.

They're undermanned, overmatched or whatever you want to call them. Fine. We'll call them ours. And that's still much more than we were able to say for such a long time. We shouldn't forget that as we get caught up in the highs and lows of a playoff chase.

Friday night's 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins was just another moment in a series that this town will remember as the winter of our content.

The country has tuned in from time to time to see what's up on the Prairies and more often than not they've come away shaking their heads muttering, "What the hell is going on in Winnipeg?"

You know, we're supposed to be miserable and cold and broke. Not screaming with glee in our new sold-out building with fresh jerseys and an NHL team of our own.

Want to know what's going on in Winnipeg? No problem, we're bursting to tell you. Some folks bought a hockey team and moved it here. Then the people of Manitoba began to pump that team with their spirit. The Jets have taken flight this winter and there's no mistaking where they've gotten their fuel. From you, baby. All of you.

The Jets on the ice may be the stars but they're just actors wearing the sweaters in our story. Actors that we love, but not the authors of this fairy tale page turner. Our spirit has proven unshakeable. Good luck getting rid of it. It's here to stay. It's indomitable. It's ferocious. It's us.

Someone asked me the other day if the honeymoon was over, if fans are now demanding a winner.

The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

We can be glad our team is back and want them to win all at the same time. Expectations don't make us bad people. It makes us fans. Winnipeggers have proven this winter they deserve that label. NHL fans. It sounds nice. Just ask the players who can barely hear themselves think most nights around here.

Jets fans have proven to be among the very best the NHL has to offer. Passionate, loud, energetic and always spirited.

Many of us scoffed at the slogan Spirited Energy when the politicians first ran it up the pole. Maybe it wasn't cool or didn't ring true at the time. I'm not sure, I didn't really pay attention back then. But it's ringing the bell right now.

The next month will tell us the story of our Jets and their playoff fortunes. Like, I said, maybe and maybe not. But the first home game of eight in a row in Winnipeg this month was a roaring success.

The Stanley Cup champion Bruins wrapped themselves in their Armani suits and trudged to the airport to load up their private jet with confused looks on their faces.

"Weren't we supposed to win? Isn't it supposed to be cold here? Who the hell let this town back in the NHL anyway?"

We've got seven more to go and a good run will keep the Jets in the hunt. Let's hope for wins but not forget to enjoy the games no matter. Like we have all winter.

This season it's about the journey as much as the destination.

And no, the honeymoon ain't over. We're just getting warmed up.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2012 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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