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Opinion

The Sabres' Jochen Hecht covers up after finding himself the target of his own team inside the Jets net with goalie Ondrej Pavelec in second-period action Thursday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Sabres' Jochen Hecht covers up after finding himself the target of his own team inside the Jets net with goalie Ondrej Pavelec in second-period action Thursday.

Kris KING will tell anyone listening his favourite days in the NHL were spent in Winnipeg and the current group of Jets is coming around to the same conclusion.

King was a captain and fan favourite with the Jets in the late '90s and had stints under the bright lights of both New York and Toronto but found his time in Winnipeg the best, citing a team togetherness that spread beyond the locker-room.

Current winger Tanner Glass says the same bonds between players and their families are beginning to form in Winnipeg and it can only pay dividends down the road.

"It's turning out to be a great place to play. It's been great for me. It's only been half a season but the organization treats you right, and away from the rink it's been a real family atmosphere," said Glass. "We've spent a lot of time as a team away from the rink. It's what it takes to build a strong-knit group."

Jets (from left) Evander Kane, Tobias Enstrom and Bryan Little celebrate a goal against the Sabres in the second period Thursday. The team clicks off the ice also.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jets (from left) Evander Kane, Tobias Enstrom and Bryan Little celebrate a goal against the Sabres in the second period Thursday. The team clicks off the ice also.

That the Jets are enjoying our town and settling in well is a nice little story on the surface but has far-reaching implications in terms of the future of the franchise.

Lots of snarky observers will flat-out say the Jets can never attract marquee free agents because of Winnipeg's reputation as a small-market city with the worst climate in the league.

Winnipeg may be short on supermodels and palm trees but Glass believes quality people will want to come here when they realize what the city and franchise have to offer.

"It's gonna be huge for a small market like this with such a cold climate," said Glass. "If players realize that it's a good place to come, especially if you want to spend time with your teammates and significant others this is a great place. It's a credit to the captains and the captains' wives that we do stuff together and that people get along."

There's an old expression in sport, "25 players, 25 cabs," that describes teams that don't play well together on or off the field.

"I've been in places where you would never see the rest of the guys except for at the rink. That's not the way it is here and it's a lot of fun," said Glass.

The Jets have eight players heading for unrestricted free agency and four others will become restricted free agents on July 1.

Glass is one of those slated to become a UFA but he says if the team comes to him earlier with the right offer, he'd be glad to stay.

"I love it here. It's been a great experience for me," said Glass, who has been one of Winnipeg's most consistent performers this season.

Keeping players is one step, attracting them is another. The Jets have already begun to work on making this a desirable place to stay. Time will tell if they can make it a spot players search out.

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