It’s been a game that has been circled on every Winnipeg hockey fan’s calendar for 15 years. They just didn’t have an actual date to circle. Well, ever since the 2011-12 NHL schedule has been released, Oct. 9 has been the big date in Manitoba’s capital as the Jets make their official return.
As you can imagine, Winnipeg is abuzz. Sunday’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens may be the toughest ticket to find this regular season in the entire NHL. On StubHub, you’d have to pay $633 per ticket – in the upper deck! For two tickets in the lower bowl, Jets fans would have to shell out almost $3,000. And the thing is, those tickets are selling.
The first preseason game at MTS Centre last month – the Jets’ first game on home ice since moving from Atlanta – was described as a playoff atmosphere.
“Nothing against Atlanta,” captain Andrew Ladd said, “but you wouldn’t get that at an exhibition game there. To have that excitement there for players, it makes it that much more fun to play in games.”
Ladd said the fans will be ready to top that atmosphere this Sunday. “I’m sure they’ll be ready to blow the roof off!”
Sunday’s game will be televised nationally throughout Canada in a special edition of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. Especially with it coming against the Canadiens – arguably the most popular team north of the border – it’s going to be the event in Canada this weekend.
“That first game is going to be amazing,” goaltender Chris Mason said. “Everybody kind of has that game booked on their calendar, especially up in Canada. I think it will probably be on 95-100 percent of the TV’s there.”
Mason, who grew up in Red Deer, Alta., described the scene in Winnipeg as a 180-degree turnaround from Atlanta.
“It’s completely different,” Mason said. “There are Winnipeg Jets hats and shirts everywhere. I dropped my daughter off at kindergarten, and 50 percent of the kids are wearing Jets stuff. It’s just unbelievable.
“Growing up in Canada, as a boy or girl, everyone has a connection to hockey,” he said. “You’re limited in your summer sports because it’s not that long, and we have longer winters. It’s just a passion in Canada.”
Ladd and Mason both mentioned that, in Winnipeg, it’s already a situation where wherever they go around the town, the fans notice them. They didn’t get that in Atlanta.
“That’s going to be a big adjustment for a lot of guys,” Ladd said. “There are pros and cons to every situation that you’re in. For guys who like their privacy, that might bother them a little bit. I think everyone in here would exchange that to play in front of a sell-out crowd.”
The MTS Centre will undoubtedly be sold out on Sunday evening. And it will be rocking.
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