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Charge of the white brigade

'Go Jets go' ripples through downtown as thousands gather to cheer on their team

Fans surged out of Bell MTS Place into a throng of thousands cheering outside as the Winnipeg whiteout party ended with the sounds of horns blaring the Jets’ victory Wednesday.

“I’m sorry, but did we win?” asked one bemused fan. “Everybody’s freaking out so I assume we did. I can’t see the screen from behind here,” the fan said before he was gone into the crowd.

Cheers followed the flow north on Donald Street as fans headed out of downtown. “Go Jets go,” was heard rippling through the departing throng: over and over again.

A sold-out arena provided the perfect backdrop for the return of the Winnipeg whiteout, a popular postseason tradition left over from the previous incarnation of the Jets, and one that entails every fan dress in white to create “storm-like” conditions for the opponent.

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Fans surged out of Bell MTS Place into a throng of thousands cheering outside as the Winnipeg whiteout party ended with the sounds of horns blaring the Jets’ victory Wednesday.

"I’m sorry, but did we win?" asked one bemused fan. "Everybody’s freaking out so I assume we did. I can’t see the screen from behind here," the fan said before he was gone into the crowd.

Cheers followed the flow north on Donald Street as fans headed out of downtown. "Go Jets go," was heard rippling through the departing throng: over and over again.

A sold-out arena provided the perfect backdrop for the return of the Winnipeg whiteout, a popular postseason tradition left over from the previous incarnation of the Jets, and one that entails every fan dress in white to create "storm-like" conditions for the opponent.

Fans were already starting to file into the arena hours before Game 1 between the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in their first-round playoff series. It can be argued the eye of the storm took place just steps outside the arena, where thousands of fans packed Donald Street, which was closed for the street party.

Shoulder to shoulder, separated by two large TV screens at opposite ends of the block, people watched as the Jets battled to a 3-2 victory over the Wild in their first post-season victory since NHL hockey returned to Manitoba seven years ago.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Jets whiteout street party packs a closed off section of Donald Street in downtown Winnipeg, Wednesday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Jets whiteout street party packs a closed off section of Donald Street in downtown Winnipeg, Wednesday.

For others, those who had to live through the pain of losing Jets 1.0, it was the first playoff win in 22 years.

"This is what we’ve all wanted ever since the Jets came back. I’ve dreamt about this since I was a kid," said Jordy Melnyk, who was dressed in a Jets-themed grizzly suit. "In 2015, when we made the playoffs it was great and there was an atmosphere — but no party like this. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of this?"

Melnyk, like many who braved the chilly weather, can remember what it was like to lose the Jets many years ago. He was there at The Forks to empty his piggy bank in a last-ditch effort to save the team. He has no shame admitting that when the plan fell through, and the team eventually moved to Phoenix in 1996, he cried.

But there were no tears on this day, even if it wasn’t always easy on the heart.

The Jets won but it would take some time before things got going. While fans were occupied with music and food trucks, a 0-0 score through the better part of two periods did little to settle their stomachs.

At times you could hear a pin drop, the silence only interrupted by the collective gasps whenever the Jets got a shot on net. Then there were the impromptu "Go Jets Go" chants that appeared whenever the game cut to a commercial.

"Way too fast," was how Josh Friesen described his heart rate. "I think I lost two years of my life."

<p>Winnipeg Jets fans celebrate a win over the Minnesota Wild in game one of their NHL playoff series, Wednesday.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ MIKE SUDOMA

Winnipeg Jets fans celebrate a win over the Minnesota Wild in game one of their NHL playoff series, Wednesday.

The crowd finally came alive late in the second period when Mark Scheifele one-timed a pass from Jets captain Blake Wheeler to put the homeside up 1-0.

Then came the real fireworks as fans were treated to three goals in the first five minutes of the third period, the Wild taking a 2-1 edge before Finnish sensation Patrik Laine fired one home to tie the game 2-2.

That set the scene for Joe Morrow, who put the Jets up 3-2 with seven minutes left, though you sensed fans were still uneasy. All of a sudden the costumes that filled the street – the white suits, beards and overalls – suddenly turned invisible as all eyes rested on the T.V. screen.

"This is the way to watch hockey, surrounded by passionate fans," said Friesen. "I was telling my partner that I wish it was snowy and cold so that all of Canada could see how crazy we are. So it would be a real Winnipeg whiteout."

The final two minutes would feel more like two hours as fans huddled around the TV screens, unaware of the dropping temperature. When the final buzzer went, the crowd revelled in the moment, raising their hands and voices in delight.

Kids cheers atop their parent’s shoulders and other started chants of "Go Jets Go" once more, before finally making their way to the exits. It was the start of what should be a long journey, but one that seemed to only be getting started.

"In 2015, we were just happy to be in the playoffs but now the expectations have risen as the team has gotten better. Now we expect something," said Michael McMullen, another devoted fan.

"The buzz in the city, people across the country are really understanding that it’s not only a hockey team that is rising up, but Winnipeg overall. The whole town is rising up and the Jets are symbolic of that."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra believes every story has a life of its own with a heartbeat and body and legs. She’ll probe for a pulse and check out its shape from every which way, until she feels it and sees it. So be patient with her. She can be exasperating.

Read full biography

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

Read full biography

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Wild storm is brewing in Winnipeg
Photos by: Alexandra Paul
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The Jets whiteout party gets started on Donald Street in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The Jets whiteout party get started on Donald Street in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Rob Miller gets in the playoff spirit at the Winnipeg Jets White Out Street Party prior to game one of the playoff series against Minnesota Wild Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans begin to take their seats prior to playoff game one between the Winnipeg Jets' and Minnesota Wild, Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Trish Esau and Dan Nolin showing their Jets team spirit near Bell MTS Place, Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Cody Laschyn (centre) and friends Normal Lavallee (left) and Tyler MacFarlane wait for the Jets whiteout party get started on Donald Street in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press 2018.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans begin to take their seats prior to playoff game one between the Winnipeg Jets' and Minnesota Wild, Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Joshua and Stan Plett get in the playoff spirit at the Winnipeg Jets White Out Street Party prior to game one of the playoff series against Minnesota Wild Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Fans get in the playoff spirit at the Winnipeg Jets White Out Street Party prior to game one of the playoff series against Minnesota Wild Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Linda Van Den Broek and Jeff Seaford get in the playoff spirit at the Winnipeg Jets White Out Street Party prior to game one of the playoff series against Minnesota Wild Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Brittany Moore and Lester Pineda get in the playoff spirit at the Winnipeg Jets White Out Street Party prior to game one of the playoff series against Minnesota Wild Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The Jets whiteout party on Donald St. in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Liesa Guenther (left) and Colleen Kramer get ready to watch the game at the Jets whiteout party on Donald Street in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press 2018.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans fly their flags at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans cheer as they watch the game at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Zarayah Richards, 3, stands for the national anthem at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Tammie Beauchemin sings the national anthem at the Jets whiteout party on Donald St.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans watch the game on the big screen at the Jets whiteout party on Donald St.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans watch the first period at the Jets whiteout party on Donald St.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Teagan Ewatski watches the game intently at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Teagan Ewatski cheers as the Jets score the first goal of the game at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The crowd goes wild as the Jets score the first goal of the game at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The crowd goes wild as the Jets score the first goal of the game at the Jets whiteout party on Donald St.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The crowd goes wild as the Jets score the first goal of the game at the Jets whiteout party on Donald St.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The crowd celebrates the Jets goal at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The crowd goes wild as the Jets score the first goal of the game at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Chris Jericho makes a special appearance at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Fans pose for pictures at the Jets whiteout party.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Karolina Robak reacts as the Jets score a goal.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The crowd goes wild as the Jets score at the Jets whiteout party.
History

Updated on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 11:53 PM CDT: Adds video

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