Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 8/4/2012 (2017 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The last home game of the season was bittersweet for Winnipeg Jets fans at the MTS Centre Saturday.
It’s over for now; the Jets lost 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but most see the beginning of a beautiful relationship blooming in the city.
"It’s brought life to Winnipeg," said Rob Keenan, who was at the game with his wife Diana and their three-year-old son, Christopher. The young family bought a quarter-share in a set of season tickets.
"The first game was pretty memorable," Keenan said, adding the whole season has given the city a shot in the arm.
"People are proud to be from Winnipeg. The Jets are back in town."
The energy is palpable, said Gil and Tania Johnston, who were attending their first (and obviously last) game of the season.
"I think it’s fantastic for the community," said Gil. He’s noticed a new enthusiasm rubbing off all the Jets jerseys and paraphernalia that are pretty much ubiquitous in the city.
"You see it from the little kids to adults playing rec hockey."
And you see it outside of Winnipeg.
"If you go to Grand Forks, you’ll see everyone is wearing Jets jerseys," said Gil, who owns a Jets watch and licence plate.
Tania and he were both wearing Jets jerseys to the game Saturday, but they had to leave their sons, ages 6 and 8, with a sitter.
"They’re heartbroken they weren’t coming tonight," said their mother.
Gil acknowledged the NHL tickets are expensive. While a family of four has to pay much, much more to see the Jets than the former Manitoba Moose, Gil doesn’t mind. People need to manage their finances to see if their family budget can afford season tickets or share them with someone, but the Jets are a good deal overall, he said.
"Having an NHL team again has put the city back on the map."
Madison Didham doesn’t care about the economics of hockey. She likes her Jets — and besides, she’s at the game for free.
The five-year-old girl won two tickets to the game for entering a video in the Winnipeg Free Press Unrivalled Jets Fan contest.
It was Madison’s first Jets game, but she’s been watching them all season on TV with her dad, Jeff Didham.
Her first NHL game was a real eye- and ear- opener for the young fan. Once she got used to the deafening volume, she had a great time, her dad said.
After the game, and the Jets lost and packed it in, Madison got a little teary eyed, her dad said.
"She’ll miss watching the guys on TV."
There have been too many highlights to count, he said, but the Jets beating the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins came to mind.
Didham said he doesn’t think the lustre of having an NHL team in Winnipeg will wear off any time soon.
There will be no playoff encores and so the Winnipeg Jets are vowing to make their final act of the 2011-12 season a memorable one.
The Jets play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at 6 p.m. at MTS Centre (6 p.m. CBC/TSN1290) tonight in what is the finale for both clubs.
“We want to finish it off the right way,” said Jet captain Andrew Ladd. “The fans have been great to us the whole year and to be able to repay them the favour by winning this last game and give them a strong effort would be a nice way to cap it off.
“There’s still that disappointment of not being in the playoffs and not playing for anything right now. You’re trying find ways to get motivated and the best way to put it is to play hard for each other and the fans and give them a good show.”
The Jets, 37-35-9, have a chance to finish with 85 points -- their highest point total since registering 97 in the 2006-07 season.
Winnipeg has lost three straight on home ice, but still sports a solid 23-13-4 home record. The club is planning some video salutes to the fans while Jet faithful have been taking to the media and social media as part of a grassroots campaign to start a ‘Thank-you, True North’ chant during the game.
“We’re going to try and play our best game tonight to thank the people of Winnipeg and the entire community for all their support this year,” said Blake Wheeler. “They’ve really pushed us, especially at home, to play at a different level. We owe it to ourselves and to this community to play our best game tonight and hopefully give them more reasons to be excited for next year.
“There’s been some pretty magical games here. When we beat Boston to knock them off their streak that was a really magical night and the last stretch when we were fighting for the playoffs and we beat Florida 7-0, that was a big night, when we beat Washington to put ourselves back in the race… there’s been a lot of great nights.
“Fortunately we were in the playoff discussion for a long time, it just wasn’t long enough.”
The Jets will be without Tanner Glass, Kyle Wellwood, Ron Hainsey and Eric Fehr tonight, all absent because of injury.
The one juicy story line for the Lightning is whether Steven Stamkos can hit the 60-goal mark. He is at 59.
“I just want us to play well and play hard for the fans and play for the right reasons for each other,” said coach Claude Noel. “The last couple of games have been a little bit difficult to coach, but I’m happy our guys have played. I’ve been in situations and seen situations where at the end of the year if nothing matters it’s tough to watch the games. For the most part our guys have been pretty good and I’m thankful for that.”
The Jets organization will presenting the Dan Snyder Memorial Award prior to tonight's game.
The award has been presented to a player on the Atlanta Thrashers, and now the Jets, since 2004 who "best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition," according to the team's website.
Snyder died from injuries sustained in a 2003 car accident in a vehicle being driven by then-teammate Dany Heatley.
Snyder's father Graham spoke to media today about the award. Watch the video below: