Greetings from Winnipeg. This city has waited 19 years for the return of NHL playoff hockey and the day has finally arrived. The Jets will play host to the Ducks at the MTS Centre in Game 3 of the teams’ first-round playoff series, adding drama to what will be a wild scene in a city whose passion for the Jets is boundless and is remarkable even in hockey-mad Canada.
The first version of the Jets left Winnipeg to move to Arizona in 1996 and the city was without a team until 2011, when the Atlanta Thrashers were sold, moved north, and renamed. The playoff whiteout, a wonderful tradition from the original Jets, will be revived Monday with fans urged to dress all in white and wave small white towels. The blizzard effect that creates is really striking and should ramp up the energy to new decibel levels in a building that’s usually loud for every regular-season game.
“Every team says this, but there really seems here in Winnipeg, to be a great connection between the fans of the Jets, the ones at the game and outside, and their team. I'm looking forward to it,” Jets Coach Paul Maurice said.
“Just go outside. Everybody's got a Jets thing on. There's a real connection here. There's an appreciation for their team, for the fact that they're back. My best story about being in Winnipeg isn't one thing, and I won't be able to articulate it well, but it goes to what I said just previously. The fans here come up and thank you like you had anything to do with the team coming back, which I didn't, for being here.”
Even members of the Ducks were looking forward to the enthusiasm and energy fans will generate in the MTS Centre.
“Playing in Canada, it’s a lot of fun. The fans are great here,” said Corey Perry, who’s from Peterborough, Canada. “They’ve been waiting a long time for this and it’s going to be exciting, everything that’s going on.”
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, also Canadian, agreed that the Winnipeg fans will help create a memorable experience.
“It’s going to be awesome. This is what the playoffs are all about,” he said. “It’s fun when you get all the fans against you, all the fans chanting. It’s a good time out there.”
Getzlaf also said the Ducks can draw on their experience to keep them focused Monday night.
“We’ve been in some pretty loud buildings before and we expect nothing else tonight,” he said. “We’ll just go through our normal routine. It’s about preparing for a hockey game and it’s going to be a loud building. It’s going to be fun. It’s about controlled emotion the first five minutes to make sure you’re out there doing the right things and doing the little things that get you into a hockey game.”
But he acknowledged that he will try to soak in some of the atmosphere.
“I’ll look around and enjoy it. This is what hockey’s all about," Getzlaf said. "I love these kinds of situations. It’s fun.”