It’s a question I get a lot. Stuck in the middle of where everyone is now suddenly a Penguins fan, I can’t say I like hockey without someone assuming that’s who I support. At this point, I have to interrupt them and say who I really support, and that’s when I get the question. “Who? Why are you a fan of THEM?” Many people are just learning that Winnipeg has an NHL team because they don’t follow the league. So, if you’re reading this, this is why.
My interest in hockey was first realized when I would play the old NHL games on my Playstation 2 as a kid. I really only had the video games to guide my fandom, and the Avalanche were the most fun to play as so it seemed like an obvious choice that I would consider myself an Avalanche fan. I support the Denver Broncos, so it made sense for me to latch on to the Avs as well. Funny enough, the other team I would play as a lot was the Atlanta Thrashers, because of their cool logo. I actually got a Thrashers hat when I was fairly young, and I still have it to this day.
Fast forward a few years to what was the 2006-07 season, and there’s actual hockey being played close to my home. It was only the (now defunct) Central Hockey League, but it satisfied my hockey hunger. You can thank the Youngstown Steelhounds for you being able to read me write about this sport. I won a contest to be able to interview a player and have my article published on their website. Sadly, the article has been lost to the sands of time, otherwise I’d share it here. The only thing remaining of the website, is the tombstone preserved by the Wayback Machine.
Once the team inevitably folded after the 2007-08 season, my interest in hockey waned. I was heartbroken after losing my team and nothing filled the void. Ironically, getting another NHL video game is what rekindled my love of the sport. This was when the rumors of a Jets return were starting. I knew nothing of the story beforehand, but fresh off of losing a team I cared about, the story resonated with me. It gave me comfort seeing that I wasn’t the only person who was upset about losing their team. I would pay attention to the Glendale Town Hall meetings, assuming that Phoenix would be the team that would be moving back to Winnipeg.
Eventually, the day came. May 31st, 2011. I was a freshman in high school at that point. I watched the press conference on NHL Network, thrilled to see a happy end to the story. I was overjoyed for these people, getting back a team after having one ripped from them all those years ago. I started to gain an interest in the NHL again. I didn’t have a connection anymore to the Avalanche teams I adored in my youth though, maybe I’d join this fanbase. I mean, I was already invested in the story of how the, then unnamed team, came back to the NHL. Why not just fully become a fan?
It’s no secret that the uniforms played a part in my fandom. I love them. The double blue is my favorite color scheme in the league, it looks so clean. I’m a big jersey nerd anyways. I, now have a collection of hockey jerseys that is 31 strong and growing, so the aesthetics had to have contributed.
I casually followed the team throughout the first season, but the second draft and selection of Jacob Trouba is what got me fully invested in this team. As a pretty big fan of Michigan athletics, the Jets drafting someone whose career I can follow on the college level before turning pro was an awesome thing, and now, he’s my favorite player and a cornerstone of this franchise.
The seed of my fandom of the Jets was planted a long time ago. I was only four months old when the original team moved, so there was no connection there, but through a few little things like owning a Thrashers hat as a young child, winning a contest to write an article for my favorite team’s website, losing said team, and then watching the rebirth of a hockey team a thousand miles away in the prairies of Canada, becoming a fan of the Jets seems like something I was meant to do.