Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 12/01/11 at 01:00 PM ET
The Jets lost their third straight on Tuesday night, falling 6-4 to the Ottawa Senators in a match that had a few modest highlights: two goals each by the Sens’ Milan Michalek and Zack Smith, a pair by the Jets’ red-hot Evander Kane, and an unbelievable 12 shots (and no goals) in one game by Dustin Byfuglien. In a month full of ugly lip hair, it was nice to see the familiar (yet graying) moustache of Senators coach/former Winnipeg Jet Paul MacLean back in town as well.
Technically, it wasn’t a great game - the Jets were kept to the perimeter with most of their 43 shots, they weren’t able to capitalize on a second period 5 on 3, and the goaltending at both ends was pretty mediocre.
What made it a memorable game for me was the fact that it was my first time seeing the Winnipeg Jets v2.0 live. I slugged back overpriced beer, forked over my dough for the 50-50 draw and stood in line to use the washroom like so many of the rest of the 15,000+ in attendance. And while the outcome and overall performance of the Jets on the ice left a little to be desired, the overall experience was fantastic.
I’ve been to the MTS Centre dozens of times - for concerts, curling, Elmo, and a bunch of Manitoba Moose games - but it truly seemed like a different building with NHL hockey being played under its roof. While the Moose had a healthy draw as far as AHL teams go, they rarely opened the upper deck. I sat up there once to watch hockey - they opened it up when the Moose met the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup finals a few years back. It was cramped, the sightlines in spots were questionable, it was woefully lacking in facilities and concessions, and almost induced some serious vertigo. And while I wasn’t up there on Tuesday night, apparently it’s a much improved place to watch the Jets.
I was sitting in one of the corners, about 18 rows from ice level. My view can be seen here in a panoramic shot - as you can see, the 15,004 fans are packed in tight. I can imagine it being a fairly intimidating building to play in if you’re the visiting team, as it really does feel like the boisterous crowd is just a stone’s throw from the ice. Claustrophobics beware.
The in-game production - scoreboard video, crowd interaction, and so forth - was top notch. Because Budweiser is the official beer of the Winnipeg Jets, anything other than Bud or Bud Lite is now in short supply - gone is the relative sanctuary of an overpriced Moosehead. Beer jumped from $7.00 for a 17 ounce glass to $8.25 with the return of the NHL, and most other concessions followed suit. Hey, you want pro hockey? Someone’s got to pay those salaries. Similarly, the days of kids selling 50/50 tickets from little booklets are gone - now it’s mainly adults walking around hawking ‘em (for a much higher price, but with an impressive payout) from automated doo-hickeys.
Then there’s the merchandise… I mean the jerseys, t-shirts, hats, etc. It’s incredible how much of that stuff has been bought hand over fist by Jets fans. (Aside: the number of Jets car flags in Winnipeg is ridiculous.) Any concerns about long-time hockey fans sticking with Jets v1.0 jerseys should be put to bed at this point - the number of new jerseys/shirts outweighed the old Jets stuff by at least 5 to 1. Combine that with sellouts every night and it’s easy to see why the value of the team has quickly jumped by 21 per cent since last year. And, coincidence? Manitoba restaurants saw an increase in revenue in September after two consecutive bad months. All those Jets fans flocking downtown have to eat somewhere…
Overall, my experience seeing the Jets in the MTS Centre was pretty darn positive - I’m already looking forward to my next game (December 22 against the Habs). But first, tomorrow night’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes in what is sure to be a fascinating game to watch. The return of Shane Doan, @BizNasty2point0 in the house, some freshly shaven hockey players and a rumoured attempt at a whiteout by some fans should make for some high drama…
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About Benny and the Jets
Fifteen years ago, Ben's beloved Winnipeg Jets left town. He begrudgingly turned to the Montreal Canadiens for comfort and found none, and is now struggling to find a place in his heart for the Winnipeg Jets v2.0.
Ben is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer that writes a lot about wine and beer. Expect his son to be drafted into the NHL in 2025.