Jets return cheered by lucky 250 fans

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THE Winnipeg Jets received maximum support from just 1.8 per cent of their usual fan base inside Canada Life Centre Tuesday night.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/01/2022 (309 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE Winnipeg Jets received maximum support from just 1.8 per cent of their usual fan base inside Canada Life Centre Tuesday night.

No, the crowd didn’t turn on them.

In truth, only a small fraction of the downtown rink was occupied as the Jets played on home ice for the first time since Dec. 19. Capacity has been capped at 250 for Winnipeg’s two NHL contests this week under current provincial health orders, set to expire Feb. 1.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 250 fans were allowed in to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets against the Florida Panthers in Winnipeg Tuesday.

“It’s like you’re that billionaire who buys out the whole rink for all his friends,” said Rob Ferrand, with a laugh.

Thousands of season-ticket holders were given a chance last week to be among 125 pairs of spectators. Ferrand and his 16-year-old son, Mathieu, were among the fortunate few to watch the visiting Florida Panthers battle the Jets.

The Ferrands had to shuffle over just a few seats from where they normally sit in Section 216.

Spectators were confined to the west side of the rink — behind the team benches — with no more than four people to a row.

Florida hit the scoreboard first just over two minutes into the game as Panthers forward Mason Marchment tipped the puck past goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s glove.

Rob said there was no indication from the sparse crowd anything untoward had occurred.

“It was really odd. There was no sound at all,” he said. “Usually, there’s some kind of crowd reaction to every play on the ice. But if you weren’t watching, you wouldn’t have known something happened.”

Bill and Mary Rutherford are usually perched in Section 208 but moved across the arena to Section 221 for the good-old unusual hockey game.

Their nearest neighbours were a row behind and six seats away.

“It’s quite an experience. We’re glad we’re here but it’s very different,” said Mary, after the opening 20 minutes.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Fans celebrate a Winnipeg Jets’ goal against the Florida Panthers.

The first opportunity for fans to spring from their seats came at 8:19 of the first period when Jets veteran centre Paul Stastny tied the game 1-1. It was impossible to discern the actual noise generated by the roughly 21 dozen paying customers, owing to the decibel level of the canned crowd noise.

“It was awesome,” Mary said of Stastny’s ninth tally of the year. She had no difficulty hearing her own cheers for the first time this season. “We need a couple more goals.”

Another 250 will be in the rink Thursday when the Jets host the Vancouver Canucks.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The number of fans were restricted due to provincial COVID-19 health restrictions.
Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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