Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 10/06/11 at 05:20 PM ET
No, the Jets aren’t playing, but the anticipation surrounding tonight’s NHL regular season kickoff couldn’t be more intense in Winnipeg. With the NHL deciding to host the 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-off festival at The Forks - located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg - the eyes of the hockey-loving world will turn in our direction for the first of two times this weekend.
With all sorts of bands (Three Days Grace, Bachman Turner, Inward Eye, guests (Don Cherry, George Stromboulopolous, various Jets), activities and more set to start this afternoon at The Forks, Manitobans will get the first taste of the NHL regular season in the shape of a huge freaking party. One could argue that the pre-season games delivered this already, and they’d be right. But the split-squad games and rotating rosters are now a thing of the past. This is the real deal.
The foundations of the MTS Centre may literally shake when the Jets take to the ice at the MTS Centre on Sunday afternoon. And while it’s safe to say most of the Jets roster won’t have experienced anything quite like it, they can at least say they’ve played in an NHL regular-season game at least once.
Not so for #55, the newly signed Mark Scheifele. You can bet the butterflies will be fluttering big time for the kid that was all smiles as he lit it up in the pre-season. It’s also probably safe to assume that Brett MacLean - claimed off of waivers by the Jets today from the Phoenix Coyotes - probably hasn’t seen too many ravenous crowds in his 13 NHL games for the desert dogs. Captain Andrew Ladd and his alternates (whoever they may be - they haven’t been announced yet) will have to keep this young team in check against the Habs, who are accustomed to an engaged and boisterous fan base rooting either for or against them.
The Habs look much like they did at the end of last year, and the playoff experience they bring against Winnipeg will be an asset when faced with the 15,000+ maniacal Jets fans in attendance. Yes, there will be the odd Habs fan there as well, but you’d be a fool to sport the bleu, blanc et rouge on opening night in Winnipeg. Montreal will also already have played a regular-season game (tonight against Toronto), so they may have already worked out any bugs in their game.
Expect a rip-roaring start from both teams, with big hits and end-to-end action until the nerves settle a bit. After that, all bets are off.
In the meantime, as I’m sure Bachman and Turner will sing tonight during the Habs-Leafs intermission from downtown Winnipeg, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, former Winnipegger Neil Young has already weighed in. He’s regularly spotted at San Jose Sharks games, often sporting a Manitoba Moose hat. He’s already decided who he’s pulling for this year.
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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.