Remember when you were scared to hope?

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This article was published 10/4/2015 (2431 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Remember when you were scared to hope?

Afraid to dream of the NHL coming back to your town. Remember when you sat at your computer waiting to try and buy tickets? Nerves making your hands shake and your heart rev.

 

Remember when Mark Chipman called them the Jets for the first time? Or that warm Sunday afternoon, standing at attention for O Canada before the opening game? Holding back tears or just letting them flow.

All those moments building to this one.

The beginning of a new era in Winnipeg hockey. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's plan taking hold and preparing to fly. Maybe even soar.

No longer just members of the NHL, but contenders and tournament qualifiers. Getting the team back was one thing. Thursday night's clinching of a post-season berth was another altogether.

Another threshold has been crossed. New memories, burnished with the heat of playoff competition, are about to be made.

Your Jets are back in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And now it's time for you to resurrect your tradition. To wear white en masse to a Winnipeg Jets playoff game. To rumble like no other building in hockey. To shimmer in ghostly white.

Across the country they've taken note of late. The team in Winnipeg, it's got something going. Fourteen teams will fall off the grid. Sixteen will be left. The stage will shrink, but the audience will swell.

The Jets won't be just a Prairie thing. And neither will the return of the Winnipeg Whiteout.

It's your tradition. You've saved it for this moment. Held back when tempted to leap. Resisted an early unveiling. Now is your time. Bring it forth. Dig up those old whites or buy new ones.

Just put them on and revive the scene. It's still one of the greatest in hockey lore. Awaken the Winnipeg Whiteout from its slumber. Let it roar. It's been borrowed but not forsaken.

It began here and it belongs here.

So many of you have your own memories of the past four years and the return of the Jets. For some, the next few days will mean reaching back to 1996 and the final days of the first Jets. Others will go back to the WHA, remembering John Ferguson's cigar and the panache of Ulf and Anders.

Take the time to reflect. Then step into today and revel in what's unfurling.

These coming games, playoff games, were what Chipman dreamed of when this idea of bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg started to take shape. In those quiet moments, when he began to realize he could overcome the obstacles, Chipman's dreams didn't stop at acquiring a franchise. That's not the way he thinks. Not the way he competes. He thought about winning games. Playoff games.

Cheveldayoff took over this team and took measured steps to assess the organizational depth and began to methodically restock it.

He had to be grounded and focused. To set the table for what's happening now. He built a slow-burning fire. One that will burn hot and long.

There are new heroes. Hawerchuk and Carlyle and King can gracefully step aside now. They are now memories. No longer haunting vessels of lost glory. Ladd and Byfuglien and Wheeler and Little. The town is finally theirs. They've made their stamp.

Chipman has earned this moment. Cheveldayoff and his scouts and coaches and players, too.

So has the city. Let a little more of the past go now. Let a few more wounds heal. Get out your white, Winnipeg. You're back. Really back.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless