When the Jets left 15 years ago, few if any held out hope that the small, western-canadian city would ever get the chance to have an NHL franchise play in their city without it being an exhibition game. The city was told that they were not capable of supporting an NHL franchise. Now, lest we forget, the canadian dollar was worthless, the salaries were horrendous, and the team's management had made so many poor decisions, keeping a team in Winnipeg was utterly hopeless.
How times have changed.
The city of Winnipeg waited during those 15 years, and despite the team moving to Phoenix, the sun did rise and set each day (contrary to what some thought would happen), and life went on in the canadian prairies. They waited. In the years that followed they were offered a glimmer of hope. Every time a franchise was thought to be falling on hard times, the people of Winnipeg would hear their city's name mentioned as an alternative, and although they knew the possibility was remote, they still dreamed of the day they could once again go to watch their team play.
Funny how some dreams somehow become reality.
On October 9th at 4:00 CST at the MTS Center, smack-dab in the middle of that same small canadian city that was told it would never get an NHL team, a sold-out arena will show the hockey world what they have wanted so badly to show. The NHL BELONGS here. That it has ALWAYS belonged here. The anthem will start and an entire province will feel the pride of once again being an NHL city. There will be many fans, both at the arena, and watching at home, who will shed tears (I will have my own tissue, make no mistake). These tears will be tears of joy, relief, and pride. Their singing of the anthem will be filled with emotion and with each note the 15 years of waiting, hoping, and dreaming will fail to matter anymore. The anthem will be not only patriotic.........but cathartic.
This will be the first game of 82 for the Winnipeg Jets version 2.0 (barring a playoff appearance), but on this day the game will not be the focal point. For most in Winnipeg the outcome of today's game is secondary, if not insignificant. October 9th will be for us......the fans. It will be an opportunity for the city of Winnipeg and its fans to puff out their chest with pride. There will be other games at the MTS Center this season, but none will hold the meaning that this single game will.
Enjoy your moment Winnipeg. Feel good for yourselves. Show the hockey universe how thankful you are to have a team once again. Show the Jets players what it will be like to play in a packed house every night that knows what it is like to have life without NHL hockey. Show every other NHL city that they should never take having a team for granted. Show everyone what you have said all along. The NHL belongs there.