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This article was published 11/4/2018 (1206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
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.
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."
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."
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.