One of the worst parts about the NHL being locked out? For me it will be the inability to hear the raucous fans of the Winnipeg Jets yell True North during O Canada prior to a game at the MTS Centre.
When NHL hockey returned to Winnipeg this past season, an entire city was lifted off the ground and was sent into delirium every time the Jets played.
After losing their team in 1995 and being forced to endure 16 painful years without an NHL team, the Jets return made for one of the biggest and most compelling stories of the 2011-2012. From the regular season opening game right through to the following 81 regular season contests, Winnipeg hockey fans were treated to a season they will never forget, despite their team failing to make the playoffs.
The games that were played at the MTS Centre stand out in particular as being some of the most frenzied game atmospheres the league has ever seen. On a nightly basis, the arena took on an electricity that is usually reserved for big time playoff games. Jets fans didn’t seem to fall in line with the notion of a mid-season affair being “just another regular season game” and would make so much noise that you would almost be convinced that it was game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Forget about dwelling over an emotional victory or a devastating loss, all that mattered was that NHL hockey was back. The city of Winnipeg was back. The only thing that missing the playoffs did was amp up fans and players even more about the team’s prospects for next season.
A season that now looks to be jeopardized.
Once again, the empty, sickening feeling that sat in the stomach’s of Jets fans for 16 years will have returned. The thoughts of losing another season of watching their beloved team will surely feel like a dagger to the heart; the equivalent to a 10-year-old finally getting that hot new video game console he/she dreamed of having, only to have it taken away after one year of playing with it.
It was a little more than six months ago that the MTS Centre remained so loud that those inside could barely hear themselves think. Now it sits empty and dark with a hovering sense of uneasiness and hopelessness.
If the owners and players are ever in need of some extra motivation to get in there and resolve this mess, all they would need to do is throw in the tape of a Jets home game last year. They would then immediately be brought back to exactly everything that is right about sport and hockey. Undeniable love and passion for a game, a team and a city.
True North. I will find a way to yell that this year whether there is NHL hockey or not.