Hope. It rests in the cool autumn air as we rush to our place of being. As the bus pulls away from the MTS Centre, the arena looks ready. Some nights the sight of jerseys on the street reminds us that it is time for hockey again and time to hope again.
The Jets cause hope because of who they are. They left Winnipeg when we were down and out. The dollar was low. Industry was dying. Times were grim. Change came. Industry changed. Amalgamations happened. Hope sprang. And after it all, the Jets returned. They came back with more hope for a city that had once seemed down and out.
Once again, there is hope. Hope that the Jets will make the playoffs. Hope that the Jets will win more games than they lose. Hope that they will rise again. There is logic to this hope, even if there are flaws in this logic. The Jets have some legitimately good players. Their top two lines and third line centre are highly competent. After that things become a little shady and the idea of luck plays a bigger part in the roster. But hope still reins supreme.
The Jets left Winnipeg in spring. It was a long goodbye, with every breath more painful than the last. These are the worst goodbyes. For years after, the NHL taunted Winnipeg. The Arizona Coyotes would come back every year for a pre-season game and the story would turn from the game to if Winnipeg was a NHL city. "Not yet" they said; "maybe one day" they whispered. The whispers were there because of a man who had tried to save the Jets before they moved the first time.
It happened not through luck and chance. It happened because of hard work. It happened because someone understood the intrinsic value of the Jets to Winnipeg. There is a deep love of the team back to its WHA heyday. There is a certain nostalgia between the team, the city, and the name. Everything fits so well together, they were meant to be together; made for each other.
This time of year is a time for change. It is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. It is a time for dreams to be chased and goals met. It is hard to not feel the change, the hope, the fresh starts. The Winnipeg Jets are feeling the same way as everyone does with the re-boot of the school year; falling out of summer and into the cool, beautiful weather of fall. Yes, it is that time of year and yet it can be hard to buy into the hope because of what has happened in the past; what has (not) changed.
The Winnipeg Jets are bringing back the same defence, but with a healthy Grant Clitsome and the hope that Dustin Byfuglien will move back to defence at some point. They have only added on forward, Mathieu Perreault, but the hope is that Mark Scheifele will take a step forward. The same two goalies that finished the year are back in net too, but the hope is that Ondrej Pavelec actually dedicated himself to improving this summer and that Michael Hutchinson is an above replacement level goalie. The hope wins because we all want the team to win. Everyone is a fan to some level. Hope will win.
Fall will slowly drift into winter. Slowly, the weather will turn into the frigid days of January and we cling to the hopes that Fall brought us. We cling to the change. But as the weather changes, hopes dwindle. The days are short and the nights are long. The long nights and cold weather keep us inside more than we want it too. Hockey becomes a constant companion. There is hope that everything will work out still, hope that a trade will be made if needed.
As the weather warms, the hope dies or grows, depending on the team. We will either celebrate the upcoming playoffs or we will bemoan the near miss. The celebration will be tied to the hope that was felt in fall, the hope that carried us through the long, cold winter. The hope that is about to be realized. If the playoffs are missed, the miss will be bemoaned, the hope will be lost. Searching through the slushy streets, we will search for the hope that has abandoned us.
Hope. It sustains us through the longest days and darkest hours. It allows us to dream; to reach for the sky. Hope is what keeps the fans coming back, what drives us to watch all the games. Hope springs eternal. Hope is all around us, it rests in the air as the wind rustles the leaves at our feet. Hope is all we have and all we need. Because we already lost what we loved, and hope brought them back.
Seasons represent change. Change is what everyone wants with the Jets. Change in performance. Change is here with the coming of fall. Change will come again as fall fades into winter and winter melts into spring. The promise of change brings hope. The promise of change brings belief in the product. Even if nothing has really changed. The idea of change is enough to keep everyone coming back. Change, hope, and a hockey team: they are all we have in the end.