Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Out-of-town scribes chip in

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Snippets of some pieces by out-of-town columnists who visited Winnipeg for the opener:

Bruce Arthur, National Post:

So after a decade and a half, this is what Winnipeg fans got: They got the right to complain about a terrible call, as well as to be the beneficiary of one. They got the right to sing along to an inglorious anthem, to fill their 15,004-seat arena with a magnificent noise and to be quieted after an early Montreal goal. They got the right to buy tickets to the 50/50, and to swell the pot to an incredible $141,284 and to make GO JETS GO sound like thunder. A bare few even took advantage of the right to beat the traffic. As a wise pressbox man said, "They'd been waiting 15 years to be able to do that."

But as the clock ticked down almost everybody in the building stood and cheered and chanted "Go Jets Go" some more, at the end of a four-goal loss. Incredible. This is what returned to Winnipeg -- the right to be NHL fans again, with all the attendant complications that come with it. This game wasn't the storybook ending. This was the start of ever after.

Damien Cox, Toronto Star:

Sure, a win over the spoilsport Canadiens would have been not only enjoyable but a dash of poetic justice for those who believed Winnipeg was wronged when the Jets moved to Phoenix 15 years ago.

But they get the bigger picture here like nobody else in hockey. Even after a performance deemed "sloppy" by team captain Andrew Ladd, the Jets still received a standing ovation for the entire final minute.

So now this city again has an NHL hockey team to talk about and complain about -- defenceman Johnny Oduya undoubtedly has a few critics today, and should Mark Scheifele stay, and what's wrong with that power play? -- and a league to follow in a more meaningful -- and, of course, suspicious -- way.

So to be in Winnipeg now is to again be a participant in the NHL conversation. In Canada, that matters a great deal, arguably more than ever.

Tim Wharnsby, CBC.ca

It was an emotional moment, an emotional day all around. Yes, the Jets didn't get the win they wanted to properly celebrate the team's rebirth. But this is not only a young franchise, it's a young team. They have plenty of areas to improve in on the ice and as they saw on Sunday they still have plenty of culture shock to adjust to with their passionate fans.

Nicholas J. Cotsonika, Yahoo! Sports

This city is so delirious with joy, having returned from 15 years in NHL exile, the honeymoon period is sure to be long and strong. The Jets sold out 13,000 season tickets in 17 minutes - even though the average ticket price is $90 and people had to commit for three to five years - and it took that long only because the computers needed 15 minutes to process the credit cards. The Jets' slogan is "Fueled by passion."

But the Jets cannot take that passion for granted, and they know it. Now that they're here, they need to be competitive. These fans love their hockey and know their hockey, and having made such an emotional and financial investment in the team, eventually they are going to expect a return on that, not just a return to the NHL. There is a long way to go.

Scott Burnside, ESPN.com

... And for any fan who has seen his or her team leave town regardless of the sport or the reason, whether it was the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Baltimore Colts or the Los Angeles Rams or the Montreal Expos or Quebec Nordiques, the return of the Jets to Winnipeg was a storyline spun from gold.

The fans in Winnipeg sure understand what it means to get a second chance to embrace and love an NHL team.

Mark Spector, Sportsnet.ca

The defence was loose, the goaltending devoid of the big save, and the powerplay powerless. These concerns, however, are the kind a good hockey city can deal with. It's why God invented sports radio.

The good news is, kids aren't digging out their piggy banks this morning for a Save Our Jets campaign. Rather, only young Johnny Oduya will be in search of his jock strap, after a pair of key giveaways that both resulted in goals.

-- Compiled by Ed Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2011 C2

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