There’s an old saying: “There’s no place like home!” Well last night the Winnipeg Jets came home. Back in their rightful and just place. Yes this is a new version of the Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg Jets Version 2.011 if you so please, but still to many like myself who remember the days of Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, Teppo Numminen, and even Pokey and the Bandit, the Jets finally came home after 15 years of being away.
It was quite the sight. 15,000 people crammed into the MTS Centre with delirious delight as the new Jets dispatched a split Columbus Blue Jackets squad 6-1 in a raucous affair. New heroes were born. New memories made. And an excitement this city hasn’t seen since 1996.
It started in warmups when the Jets first hit the ice to a chorus of Go Jets Go which continued throughout the player introductions. A rousing version of Oh Canada which was heartily sung by the faithful was followed by more of the ubiquitous chant. Finally as puck dropped Dustin Byfuglien threw two devastating body checks which that put the crowd into a frenzy!
After a couple of scraps the game resumed into normalcy and the Jets dominated throughout. The star of the game was first round pick Mark Scheifele who scored 2 goals and picked up 2 assists as well. Scheifele was a surprise pick, but at the recommendation of his junior coach and Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk, the franchise selected him 9th overall and showed great potential. He demonstrated terrific finish around the net, while showing vision and wisdom beyond his 18 years. The Jets were originally going to send the youngster back to his junior team the Barrie Colts but with the way he’s playing they may rethink their position on that.
Byfuglien became an instant fan favourite with his physical presence and booming shot from the point. However there is controversy surrounding Big Buff as he faces charges of boating while intoxicated in the United States. If convicted, Byfuglien could miss significant time with the club.
In goal Ondrej Pavelec was excellent between the pipes. The 24-year-old Czech Republic native cut down the shooting angles very well, displayed excellent rebound control, and looked confident and sharp in his 2 periods of play. There are high hopes for Pavelec and if he can control his temper which he has had problems with in the past, the Jets may have found their number 1 goalie.
Overall it was a great night. I was very fortunate to attend the game and there were moments where I had to catch myself and say “Is this really happening?” Many cheers and even a few tears of joy came down and not even a few drunken yahoos could ruin my evening. I’m so looking forward to the regular season starting and following this team throughout the year. Enjoy the flight!