By: Nicholas Erickson
Opinion — The craziest time of the year is upon us, and no fan base is crazier about their team than Winnipeg. The community surrounding the Manitoban team is astounding.
What team in the NHL will fill up their home arena to watch the game on the Jumbo-Tron, for an away game?
What team in the NHL will have to block off entire street blocks for their first round series games (home and away) just so fans can watch outside together in jubilee when their team is absolutely killing it in the playoffs?
What team will actually succeed in having just about every single citizen living inside their state/province, and a good chunk of fans elsewhere, wearing the same color in support of their playoff team?
What team has radio contests that shell out cash prizes worth over 1,000 dollars for someone to come up with a remix of an older song to use as a playoff anthem that will get the entire fan base fired up during the day for the upcoming game?
Their fan base is all in.
The Winnipeg Whiteout has been prevalent even before they had their organization move to Phoenix with the original Winnipeg Jets. This fan base is so devoted and loyal, they refused to accept the loss of their team and just regretfully follow the Jets to their new lackluster hockey market home of Arizona.
Even when they announced that Wayne Gretzky, would be the coach of their former team, none of them cared. They just wanted Winnipeg to own the Jets again.
In 2011, Manitobans got their wish. The Jets came back to Winnipeg.
The entire surrounding area was buzzing about it and that buzz caused the economy in the 300-mile radius to flourish because of it. I worked in a pretty pathetic little sporting goods store, in what is now a ghost town of a mall in Grand Forks North Dakota during this time. However, when the Jets came back, our store flourished with Canadians that would drive anywhere from two to four hours and beyond just to get away for the weekend, and buy anything with a Jets logo in the meantime.
We went from barely selling 300 dollars-worth of merchandise a day, to well over 1,500 dollars of Winnipeg Jet’s memorabilia, jerseys, hats, pencils, shot glasses, tape dispensers, and clothing in a day. Yes, we really sold Winnipeg Jets tape dispensers and pencils.
Anything that had a Jets logo, could be sold, at an absolutely asinine price. Due to the Canadian dollar not meshing too well with the American dollar, we could charge over 300% on a sweatshirt, and Winnipeggers would slam it down on the counter to buy it after having fought for it with another Manitoban in the store.
The other reason we could charge such an outrageous price, was because of all stores in Winnipeg and the surrounding 200-mile radius struggled to even keep anything on the shelves. Supply was low, but demand was insanely high. I once sold my last shot glass that I had just found in the back room, to a man from Winnipeg who had literally been bidding on it in front of me with another man from Altona Manitoba, for 45 American dollars, because that was the last piece of Winnipeg Jets memorabilia in Grand Forks that weekend.
The Winnipeg Whiteout is highly underestimated. I know that last week I wrote an article about how good the Las Vegas Golden Knights are, but the Jets have a much larger, and much more intense fan base and home arena than the Knights ever will.
The Predators may have beaten the Jets in Winnipeg this year during the regular season, and three times in Nashville, but Winnipeg in the playoffs, and Winnipeg in the regular season, are two entirely different beasts.
At home, during the second half of the season, Winnipeg averaged 3.8 goals for, and 2.7 goals against. Now, having finished a series and closing in on finishing the second, they’ve already been averaging 4.75 goals for, and 1.25 goals against.
They finished the regular season 32-7-2 at home and going 9-1 in their last 10 games of the season. They were prepped to go far into the playoffs this year. They’re currently up 2-1 in the series on the leader of their division, and will not look back whatsoever.
They had the highest goal differential ratio of any team besides the Tampa Bay Lightning during the regular season. The Lightning only beat them by a +1.
The real worry for the Winnipeg faithful fans should be playing on the road in Las Vegas in the conference finals series. Nashville lost one game at home already in the second round to the Jets. They’re not going to win a game on the road in this series.
That being said, I’ve been hearing the fat lady bellowing since game one. Winnipeg in five or six is my assumption. If it ends in five, it’ll be a tight game. But if it ends in six, Nashville should have honestly just stayed home and started catfishing or whatever they do in Tennessee during their offseason.
The community around Winnipeg’s team is immaculate. Everyone in Manitoba will chant “Go Jets Go” until the day they’re put six feet under, and then will have it inscribed on their tombstone along with a meaningful bible verse.
I always say that meeting people from Manitoba is a blessing for the sake of small talk. They’re by far the friendliest people who are more than willing to talk about their hometown, the weather, and the Winnipeg Jets. My girlfriend is actually from Winkler Manitoba, a town only an hour away from Winnipeg. I watched game two at her parent’s home on Sunday. Her dad pulled his phone from his pocket before the first overtime started, and was inquisitive about who had called him since he had a missed call from a number he didn’t recognize. He called the number back, asked who it was, then proceeded to talk about the Jets on the phone until the overtime period began.
Granted, I believe it turned out to be his brother that had called, but I have this very strong feeling the same result would have ensued if it had been a stranger on the other line calling with a 204 area code. Moral of the story, if Winnipeg ends up etching their names on the Stanley Cup this year, someone should start up a temporary store in Grand Forks with only Winnipeg Jets Championship memorabilia, and they’ll see a rather large surge in their bank account for the next decade.
With how they’re playing at home, every away game they play is a potential game seven if they win it while having the higher seed in the series.