October 22, 2018

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Opinion

We Winnipeggers have this Jets fever nailed

John Woods / The Canadian Press Files</p><p>Fans Aaron Wold (from left), Shawn Machado and Jason Krucish show their Jets pride prior to the first game of the Western final against the Vegas Golden Knights.</p></p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press Files

Fans Aaron Wold (from left), Shawn Machado and Jason Krucish show their Jets pride prior to the first game of the Western final against the Vegas Golden Knights.

It was hours before the puck dropped on Game 2 of the Winnipeg Jets’ Western Conference final series against the Vegas Golden Knights and I was standing in the checkout line at my neighbourhood grocery store, engaged in a heartfelt conversation with the cashier.

You will never guess what we were talking about. OK, I am kidding around in a light-hearted manner, because in this hockey-obsessed city there is only one topic of conversation — whether the Jets will become the first Canadian team since 1993 to... well, you know...

Look, there is no way I am going to finish that last sentence because, as true fans already know, saying something like that out loud is a serious sports faux pas and would bring down the wrath of the Hockey Gods.

The point is we were engaged in an earnest conversation about the Jets and trying to focus all our mental energy in a sincere effort to propel them to a win in Game 2, which, tragically, did not happen.

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It was hours before the puck dropped on Game 2 of the Winnipeg Jets’ Western Conference final series against the Vegas Golden Knights and I was standing in the checkout line at my neighbourhood grocery store, engaged in a heartfelt conversation with the cashier.

You will never guess what we were talking about. OK, I am kidding around in a light-hearted manner, because in this hockey-obsessed city there is only one topic of conversation — whether the Jets will become the first Canadian team since 1993 to... well, you know...

Look, there is no way I am going to finish that last sentence because, as true fans already know, saying something like that out loud is a serious sports faux pas and would bring down the wrath of the Hockey Gods.

The point is we were engaged in an earnest conversation about the Jets and trying to focus all our mental energy in a sincere effort to propel them to a win in Game 2, which, tragically, did not happen.

As we discussed how much we loved each and every Jet, regardless of how creepy their playoff beards make them appear, a lovely woman with a basket loaded with groceries sauntered into the checkout lane and stood behind me, nodding thoughtfully at every insightful hockey-related point the cashier and I were making.

I thought she might be annoyed that we were holding up the line, but it turns out this was not the case, as she suddenly interrupted our conversation by thrusting out one hand and saying: "I have the Jets logo on my fingernails."

The cashier and I stopped talking and lowered our faces to within inches of this woman’s hand to check out her digital art.

"I had them do this at the salon," she explained as we eyeballed her nails with admiration. "I really love the Jets!"

And, yes, on each of her fingernails was a painstakingly painted tiny version of the Jets stylish logo — a sleek fighter jet parked on a red maple leaf in a blue and grey circle. It was kind of like a Michelangelo masterpiece in miniature.

"Wow!" I said as the cashier, decked out in a Jets home jersey, nodded his head in agreement. "That is super cool!"

With a dramatic flourish, the woman pulled her hand away and smiled a beatific smile. "Go, Jets, go!" she said as I paid my bill and drifted away with several bags groaning with healthy snacks (ripple chips and onion dip, for example) for that night’s game.

The thing is, there was nothing really unusual about this woman displaying her love for the Jets on her fingernails.

When I looked online, I discovered that Jets nails are, in fact, a thing. Salons aside, you can buy Jets nail polish and nifty press-on stickers featuring the logo.

At this point, I am going to state something painfully obvious: this city is in the grip of full-on Jets fever.

It is an awesome sight to behold. Every second car on the road seems to be adorned with those little Jets pennants. Driving in to work this morning, a fire truck blasted past me on its way to some emergency, with a huge Jets flag attached to its bright-red hindquarters and whipping proudly in the wind.

The other day I had to call a cab and, without prompting, the dispatcher asked me whether I was going to the Jets game, then explained that she was a senior citizen and couldn’t really afford to go to the games, but she still loved her Jets, especially Dustin Byfuglien, who may be large enough to have his own gravitational pull but is still, in her view, something of a dreamboat, if you catch our subtle drift.

I have lived in this frequently freezing city for well over 40 years now and I’ve never seen or felt anything like this upbeat vibe before.

It’s not that we need to win the Cup to validate ourselves; no, it’s more that we love our (bad word) city and are proud of our hometown and think it’s high time that other people in North America hopped on the bandwagon and gave us a little well-deserved love, too.

Cheering for a sports team and painting every inch of our bodies in the team colours may seem insane in the sense that a team and its highly paid players have no direct impact on our everyday lives.

On the other hand, the Jets are doing something that hasn’t been done here for a long time — they are lifting us out of the humdrum routine of our daily lives and reminding us how exciting it is to chase down a dream.

We are part of something bigger than ourselves and we don’t want that feeling to go away anytime soon. Many of us have put our normal lives on hold, because this is the biggest thing to happen in this city in recent memory and we don’t have the mental energy to focus on anything else.

Wearing the uniform and waving the flag and having the logo lovingly painted on parts of our bodies makes us part of the tribe, which now reaches not only from coast to coast, but into the hearts of remote countries (we are looking at you, China) where people have a searing passion for a goofy game played on a frozen surface.

The Jets hit the ice tonight in Vegas for Game 3 of the conference final and, for what it’s worth, I will be parked on my couch in front of my big-screen TV, wearing my XXXL Jets jersey and screaming my fool head off because those (bad word) referees clearly do not understand what is offside and what is not.

For the moment, I don’t plan on getting the Jets logo painted on my nails. But, hey, I’m not ruling it out, either.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
Columnist

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 8:24 AM CDT: Adds photo

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