Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Faithful fans getting fed up with mediocrity: Jets losing sales sizzle

As club continues to flounder, tickets for home games easier to obtain

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Even Winnipeg Jets fans, it would seem, can put up with only so much losing.

For the first time since Jets 2.0 became a thing, there have been widespread reports of individual tickets for Jets games at the MTS Centre being on sale, sometimes at deeply discounted prices, right up to game time.

And you need only look at the Jets' home record to understand why some of the heat has come off this city's hottest ticket. Put simply, the Jets this season have not given their rabid fan base a whole lot to cheer about.

Indeed, for all the big crowds that still turn up every night at the MTS Centre for Jets games, it is a fact heading into today's matinee against the Dallas Stars the Jets this season have a higher winning percentage on the road -- seven wins in 15 games (7-7-1) -- than at home, where they have seven wins in 18 games (7-7-4).

'We're in a tougher conference and the games are tight and tougher'

-- Jets head coach Claude Noel

Toss in a current five-game winless streak at home that goes back to Nov. 15 and it should hardly come as a surprise demand for Jets tickets is not quite so over the top as it's been in the recent past.

So what gives? How come a team that was a dominating 23-13-5 at home in the franchise's first year back in Winnipeg in 2011-12 is these days choking on that same home cooking?

It certainly isn't the fault of the fans, said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "I think they've been pretty much the same all three years," he said Friday. "All three seasons, they've been really good. It's not about them -- that's for sure. It's about us. If we want to make the playoffs, we have to start winning at home...

"Hockey is the same wherever you play, away or at home. It's the same rules, same puck. So it shouldn't be the problem. But it's a good question -- why are we not that good at home? We used to be really good. But it's not about the crowd -- that's for sure."

So again, what is it about? Jets head coach Claude Noel had a nuanced answer, as he so often does, on Friday.

As Noel sees it, the Jets were carried that first season by the unbridled enthusiasm that came with the return of the NHL to a hockey-starved hotbed. "I would agree that did help us a lot. We went on a little bit of a stretch that did help us," said Noel. "You're eventually going to find your comfort (level) wherever -- and like any team, there's more of a comfort at home."

The struggles at home this year, Noel says, have nothing to do with who is cheering in the stands and everything to do with who his team is playing on the ice in Winnipeg's new home in the Western Conference.

"We're in a tougher conference and the games are tight and tougher," said Noel. "It's hard to get wins and we're having trouble here and we're having trouble in a general sense."

Like his goaltender, Noel says any successful drive for the playoffs will begin with getting his club's home record somewhere north of .500.

"I don't know the number, but it's over .500, let's put it that way. I don't think you'd be satisfied with (less)," he said. "Because our fans here really are uplifting. They're good, they're right into the game. They want to be into the game, they want to help you.

"But we sometimes have to help them help us."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 C3

History

Updated on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 9:39 AM CST: Corrects typo in headline

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