The author of this piece reached out to me last night with this personally written testament, and I thought it should be shared. Eloquently put, it tells the story of the changing paradigm of being a past and current Winnipeg Jets season ticket holder. I was at the game on Saturday night, and I can attest to the lack of energy in the building. It was a poor state of affairs.
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR BREAKING THE MTS CENTRE? (Written by Kevin Doherty / on Twitter @magictoasterfi1 )
May 31st 2011 is a day that will be long remembered for me. It was on this day that Mark Chipman announced that True North Sports & Entertainment had purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and that NHL hockey would be returning to Winnipeg after it left 15 years earlier.
There was a lot to be excited about as we inherited a franchise that was an already-somewhat-assembled NHL team that came with parts in place so it wasn’t like this was going to be a painful start from scratch like an expansion team. There were good prospects coming over along with some established players so the transition to the NHL should not have been as painful as it was when Jets 1.0 transitioned from the WHA to the NHL.
After the NHL pillaged and plundered our WHA championship team back in 1979, I believe that John Ferguson was left with only about 2 players from that championship squad so he had to bring in a bunch of newbies to form his NHL team for the ’79-’80 season. It took him 5 years to build it back up into the respectable contending team that finished 4th overall in ‘84-‘85.
Season tickets went on sale the following Saturday morning, June 4th, and I was one of the lucky ones who managed to successfully log in (on only my 2nd refresh!) to Ticketmaster and secure a couple of P6 season ticket seats in section 325 for the Winnipeg Jets 2.0. Three other couples pitched in to pay for them so when divided equally that’s about 11 games a year for each group.
My family constantly fought over who got to go to a game but my wife and I went to the most games because we were the ones paying for them.
Going to a game was something to look forward to and was a big event.
The electrically charged atmosphere at the MTS Centre was intoxicating; kind of like what I’d imagine going to a U.S. college football game might be like.
People dressed up in ridiculous costumes, there were inventive signs everywhere, the star player of every team the Jets faced was booed mercilessly, a bag piper came out from the tunnel and played a ditty in a spotlight before the teams hit the ice.
The opposing goaltender’s name was ruthlessly jeered loudly all game long, the crowd always came up with some ingenious chant that ribbed the other team, there were goose-bump inducing rallying calls of “GO JETS GO!”almost every 5 minutes it and even the pre-game video that played on the score clock got cheered.
It was electric.
Justifiably so, the MTS Centre gained a reputation as being one of the loudest and most lively buildings (next to the Bell Centre in Montreal) in the NHL.
There were a lot of exciting things that happened in those first years and I was there for a lot of them.
I was at the game when the “Mario’s pool boy” chant was aimed at Sydney Crosby when the Pens came to town to give us out first ever win at home.
I was there when Eric Tangradi blocked about 5 consecutive shots on one penalty-killing shift and brought the fans to their feet cheering his name.
I was there for the “Flying V” 5-on-1 during the Florida Panthers blowout.
And how many teams had a celebrated fourth line that garnered its own nickname and roused the crowd into chanting that nickname (“GST! GST! GST!”) every time it hit the ice?
I was at Claude Noel’s last game against the Blue Jackets.
I’ll never forget that game.
The crowd collectively groaned, booed, hissed and then laughed at the Jet’s putrid yet comical performance.
I’d never seen a more blatant attempt by a team’s players to deliberately fail just to get their own coach fired. Which they successfully did.
The day after that debacle, Paul Maurice was announced as the Jets new head coach and things got off to a rip-roaring encouraging start with him. They made the playoffs that year and things looked like they were back on track.
Then season 5 happened.
The 2015-16 Jets were dull and boring. No one in my family wanted to go to games anymore.
It became a chore.
Instead of us fighting over who got to go to a game, it was now over who had to go.
My kids stopped wearing their Jets shirts and winter gear (“The kids at school bug me whenever I wear something with the Jets”).
I grew tired of hearing the players and coaches spit out: “We just have to put this loss behind us and move on to the next game” routine game after game.
I grew tired of hearing the “Just be happy we have a team” and “Be patient, draft and develop takes time,” and “it’s a process just like it was for the Black Hawks and Penguins” lines from everybody.
The interest level waned to such an all time low for us that for the first time we discussed giving up our tickets.
Then we got Patrik Laine.
My wife made the call to hold on to them. I wasn’t sold on the hype. Same coaches, same management and still too many left-over players from the Thrashers. How would the 6th season be any different with the addition of one (albeit highly touted) 18 year old kid?
My wife and kids have been going to all the games up until the game versus the Flames on the 11th of March. My wife was making me feel guilty so, seeing as the game was on a Saturday night and the Flames were on a lengthy winning streak (surely it had to come to an end) plus I hadn’t seen Patrik Laine in action yet, I decided to bite the bullet and go to my first game of the ’16-’17 campaign.
Well, well, well. The game was the epitome of why I had avoided going all year long.
It was a dud of a game that saw yet another lack lustre, sloppy and misguided Jets team lose 3-0. The result was depressing, but not as depressing as the atmosphere of the MTS Centre.
It was dead.
It was quieter than a library. Someone sneezed down in the first row and I could hear it from my seat way up in 325 during game play. Behind me someone desperately yelled out: “Do something!”
It was sad.
I think the only time I clapped was when little Alex shot a ball through a Duraco prop window and won a signed Adam Lowry stick during a TV time-out. Oh, and at the Timbits game during first intermission. In fact, that Timbits game incited the biggest cheers from the crowd all night.
As I sat in my seat, I reflected on what it used to be like just a few short years ago when people stood up and cheered as public address announcer Jay Richardson belted out: “Here come your Winnipeg Jets!”and when his announcement “Please remain standing and remove your hats for the singing of our national anthem” made sense.
Remain standing? Who’s standing these days?
What happened to this place? Where’s the energy? The vivaciousness?
Kroppy’s absence is certainly felt but where’s the rest of it?
Where’s the Queen and her royal entourage?
Where are the jet fighter pilots?
Where’s Popcorn Fur-Coat Man?
Where’s Statler and Waldorf?
Where are all the people in costumes, capes, masks and painted faces?
Why aren’t guys wearing blue unitards anymore?
Where are the large cardboard cut-outs? Where are all the signs? (“This is my first Jets game!” signs don’t count).
Where’s the “Go Jets Go!”chants? Where’s the passion? Where’s the atmosphere?
Someone. Anyone. Please fix the MTS Centre.
(Written by Kevin Doherty / @magictoasterfi1 )
Update @ 6:30 am, March 14th, 2017: