Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Let 'er rip... then let it go

Fans can boo the Coyotes tonight if they must purge old pain

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The Dr. Phils of the world, the self-help authors, spiritual counsellors and advice columnists all speak occasionally of the benefits of 'emotional cleansing.'

It's about dumping the mental baggage or purging negative thoughts that can hold a person back or be a roadblock to happiness. And this cleansing -- the Greeks first called it a catharsis -- can actually be uplifting and renewing.

Now, we know what some of you may be thinking here, likely something along the lines of:

'What the (expletive deleted)... Isn't this the freakin' Sports section?'

And in the interest of full transparency, it should be pointed out that yours truly is not a qualified psychologist. But that won't stop me from playing one over the course of the next 500 words or so...

So, this is a message to all those Winnipeg Jets fans who have had tonight's matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes circled on their calendars for months with the sole intention of booing until their vocal chords burn out completely.

This is a message to all those Jets fans still bitter over the departure of the original Jets to Arizona some 15 years ago, who still scratch out the eyes and draw horns and a goatee on every picture of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Let 'er rip tonight, folks.

Let it all out.

And then let it go.

Look, we understand the hurt may linger for some who had their hearts ripped from their chests back in 1996. But the NHL is back in Winnipeg and while it's absolutely goofy the Jets' old records remain in the desert and that the jerseys of Hawerchuk, Steen, Numminen and Hull hang in the team's ring of honour at Arena, it is what it is.

And sooner or later -- we hope sooner, not later -- a Phoenix vs. Winnipeg game has to evolve into something else. Like, simply, Game 25 of the Jets' season.

So let's do this once and move on, shall we?

From the already-tired-storyline department, it was former Coyotes-turned-Philadephia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov who came through here last month and apologized for offending Winnipeggers last spring during the playoffs and amid the latest Phoenix ownership crisis.

And Wednesday it was Coyotes captain Shane Doan who, upon returning to the city where he first began his pro career, wanted to make something abundantly clear.

"I never once said I didn't want to come," Doan explained. "I simply said Phoenix became home and this is where I'm from. Other people may have said that I wanted to say that or insinuated that I wanted to say that, but I've never once said that. I appreciate the fact that people listened to what I said and not what other people said about me.

"It's going to be fun. It's what makes sports fun, when you have fans that get into it. Everybody enjoys that. I hope there's lots of emotion and people cheer. The last game against Detroit (in 1996) when I was here the emotion in the building was special. You hope that emotion is always here."

The same line of questioning was put to Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, too, on Tuesday. Namely: are they prepared to be booed?

"Why would there be any booing?," he said. "I don't understand that part of it. None of these players here were the ones who made the decision to leave.

"Just like the first game of the year down in Phoenix, I think there will be some extra hype with it because of the history between the two franchises. But, ultimately, just like our first game at home, when the puck drops it's two teams playing to win. You have to get by all the extra rhetoric and find a way to win a hockey game.

"(The Jets) are a new franchise now and I think they've done a great job. Mark Chipman and the ownership should be thrilled about the success of just getting it up and running. It's great for the league but it's inconsequential to us because we've got a job to do in Phoenix."

That part is true: the Coyotes' ongoing ownership saga is a raging fire the NHL needs to address, ASAP, and winning certainly won't hurt the cause. But it would seem the expiry date on this other stuff -- old Jets vs. new Jets; Jets 1.0 vs. Jets 2.0 -- is now upon us.

So again, our advice -- free of charge -- for all those with pent-up frustrations/emotions/anger:

Let 'er rip tonight, folks.

Let it all out. And then let it go. Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2011 C3

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