The last time Mario Lemieux laced up his skates in the ancient Winnipeg Arena, the year was 1991 and I was five years old.
That night, Lemieux took to the ice with the commanding focus of an eagle; skating with the grace of a Clydesdale as he unleashed on a vulcanized rubber disc with the velocity of a rocket launcher.
At least that's how I imagine it happening in my mind.
I, like many Winnipeggers, never got the chance to see one of the greatest players of the modern era in a live event or hell -- even in a televised broadcast against my local team.
With version 1.0 of the Winnipeg Jets a somewhat distant memory and Lemieux's number 66 hanging in the rafters of the Consol Energy Center, fans now shift their focus to "The Next Great One": Sidney Crosby.
Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins made two trips to the city of Winnipeg, each while Crosby was out of the line-up battling his way back from post-concussion symptoms.
Crosby would suit up once against the Jets, an 8-4 home win in which he registered four assists.
Now, for the first time in his career, he will make the trip to the capital of Manitoba to play the Winnipeg Jets.
We've all seen how Jets' fans have treated the opposing stars of the NHL. Alex Ovechkin. Steven Stamkos. Eric Staal. Each of them have been booed and taunted until our throats are raw and hoarse. But something is different about Crosby and the Penguins, which leads me to believe the MTSC faithful will go easy on Sid the Kid.
On June 12, 2009 I was in-house watching the Hershey Bears put the final touches on back-to-back Calder Cup Championships against the Manitoba Moose. As the third period was drawing to a close, things looked dire for the Moose as they trailed by a score of 3-1. With roughly five minutes remaining in the game, public address announcer Jay Richardson took to the mic to announce the Pittsburgh Penguins had just won the Stanley Cup, as Game 7 of the Finals took place that night in Detroit, MI.
I was in awe of the response: the 15,004 in attendance turned on a heel from stone silence to raucous celebration.
You see, Winnipeg seems to have adopted rooting interests in the Pittsburgh Penguins during their 15-year absence from the NHL. And you'd be crazy if you think that number 87 didn't have something to do with this mass conversion. For the casual fan, what's better than watching arguably the greatest player of our era captivate our imaginations night in and night out? Furthermore, how can you not develop a bias to a team that you invest that much time into? And don't discount the notion that some Winnipeggers may look to acknowledge Crosby for bringing Canada Olympic gold in 2010.
And so, as we near closer to puck drop, all eyes will be on Sidney Crosby, the NHL's chosen one. The question is, how will his presence as a member of the enemy be received?
Will Sidney Crosby's debut in Winnipeg elicit boos or cheers? Let us know in the comments section below!