A day to remember

Mighty roar as Jets take to ice for first practice


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It wasn’t any single moment that best defined the first official day of the Winnipeg Jets’ rebirth — Jets 2.0, as some have called it — but a collection of them.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/09/2011 (4024 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It wasn’t any single moment that best defined the first official day of the Winnipeg Jets’ rebirth — Jets 2.0, as some have called it — but a collection of them.

There was the throaty roar from the roughly 1,500 fans in attendance when the first of three practice groups skated out at the MTS Iceplex. There were the standard ‘Go Jets Go’ chants — so loud at one point head coach Claude Noel said his post-practice address to the troops was drowned out — and enough oohs and aahs to make it feel like opening night.

And so to put this all into words, to properly describe the latest chapter in this whole experience doesn’t come easily for those living it.

John Woods / The Canadian Press Young fans welcome Zach Bogosian (4) and the Winnipeg Jets as they enter the ice for the first time as a team at the 2011 training camp in Winnipeg.

Imagine, after all, trying just to soak up all this at once: new season, new team in a new town with a new head coach.

“It felt when we were going out there like we were getting ready to play a game with how loud and excited they were,” said Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. “With what’s transpired and the team relocating back to a place that hasn’t had hockey for 15 years and seeing the passion that everyone here has for the game… it’s definitely a different scenario than I’ve ever been a part of.

“For us, it’s exciting to be a part of something new and in a city that’s been waiting for hockey for a long time.”

That’s part of what makes this different for the players. This isn’t the same as one or two guys being traded and having to get accustomed to the personalities and culture of a different locker-room. This is an entire team being moved en masse to a different country, to a town that is reacting with a decade-and-a-half of pent-up emotions.

And to experience all that together, as a team, is unique.

“First of all, it was just nice to be around everybody again,” said veteran defenceman Mark Stuart. “Before this, and over the last couple of weeks guys were coming in here and there and it was just crazy trying to get organized. But now we’re finally starting.”

It was suggested that the whole experience must have felt something like a kid heading out for the first day of school.

“That’s exactly what it was,” Stuart said. “Last night I couldn’t sleep… it felt like I WAS going to my first day of school. It was the same thing. So it was nice to get a few of the jitters out.”

And so it went on Day 1 as Jets coaches Noel, Charlie Huddy, Pascal Vincent and Wade Flaherty put three different groups of veterans and rookies through 90-minute sessions, all under the watchful eye of the team’s brass and hockey operations department.

Each practice group left to the same applause, with each taking the time to raise their sticks in a salute back to the crowd.

“I got the chills a bit, to be honest,” said centre Bryan Little. “It was the first time I’ve been nervous for a practice in a long time.”

“I’m not used to practising in front of a crowd like that, but it’s great,” added defenceman Zach Bogosian. “The fans are excited and we’re excited. It’s a good day today in Winnipeg.

“When the fans started screaming ‘Go Jets Go!’ it gives you goosebumps.”

Yes, that might just be the best way to describe all this, simply as ‘a good day in Winnipeg.’

And let’s face it, those good days are going to bleed into next week and into next month. It’s even been suggested that fans are so ecstatic to have their team back that the franchise will get a season’s grace.

Interestingly, that’s already been addressed by management: the expectations are bigger than that.

“We’ve talked about it: we have an opportunity to build this organization on the right foot,” said Stuart. “We’re kind of the pioneers, if you will, of the Winnipeg Jets. So we need to set the right tempo right away and come out with a good start. And it started today.”


Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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