Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive. ~ Stephen Leacock
It seems like every Manitoba blogger and newspaper and magazine has had an article about the return of the Winnipeg Jets. Except me. Honestly I really didn't have an opinion. I had never been to an NHL game, and being from the east coast I had never had a large professional home team to cheer for. There are no NHL teams on the east coast of Canada. There are however lots of hockey fans on the east coast and most seem to cheer for Toronto, Montreal or Boston, but there is no real unified front regarding a favourite team. Growing up I never heard anyone get really excited about going to an NHL game because I didn't know anyone that had ever had the opportunity to go to an NHL game. We all liked to watch and play hockey but the lack of a home team resulted in a lack of unity regarding the sport.
I now have a different point of view. I recently went on vacation to Florida with some of my best friends. One of our friends is a huge hockey fan and convinced the group to go to an NHL game in Tampa. At first I was hesitant as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were playing a concert in Orlando the same night and that sounded more up my alley. Turns out the only NHL game scheduled during our vacation was Tampa Bay Lightning v. Winnipeg Jets. Awesome! The opportunity to cheer for my new home team swayed me in the direction of the hockey game over the concert. I was excited to experience my first ever NHL game and my first ever opportunity to cheer for a home team! The Red Hot Chilli Peppers were out and the Jets were in, our vacation plans were settled.
We arrived in Tampa wearing our Winnipeg Jets old logo t-shirts and found our seats, pretty good ones in the lower bowl near the penalty box. I had no real idea what to expect. The first thing that surprised me was the large amount of Jets fans with signs at an away game. So many Manitobans had made the trek down to Tampa for the game and there was no way you could ignore their presence. It was in this instance that I became a Winnipeg Jets fan too. We proudly stood and sang O'Canada and cheered with the other Jets fans, screaming "True North" as loud as we could as part of the O'Canada lyrics as a thank you to True North for their return. It didn't matter that the Jets were not going to the play offs, it didn't matter if we even won the game, we were just proud. Proud to have a team to call our own, proud to be represented. It felt great. What a rush. Many times during the game I was brought to my feet cheering and screaming, just feeling the energy of the fans and the sport. It was a fantastic experience to be surrounded by the game and the enthusiasm. I could feel myself getting addicted to the Jets, my new home team. Overall the game was excellent. A good mixture of great hockey, a few fights, and lots of close calls. In the end the Jets lost the game in overtime but I still walked away with a strong sense of pride and love for the Jets. GO JETS GO! I can't wait to go to another game next season! I'm hooked, and it feels great!