After a two-week tour around North America and speaking to hundreds of NHL fans I’ve come to the conclusion that just about everyone is happy to have the Jets back in the NHL. Even Phoenix fans are happy, if only for the fact that Winnipeggers won’t be circling their team waiting for them to die. As I mentioned in an earlier story there are some true fans down in the dessert and if they stick around I think a Jets/Coyotes rivalry has been born.
But outside of Phoenix there seems to be a general love for the Jets. Walking around in Jets gear in any city, even Las Vegas, got us noticed. And in most cases a conversation was started. I’m paraphrasing many conversations into one but they all had the same theme to them.
Fan: “Hey Jets that’s awesome, you from Winnipeg?”
Jeff: “Originally, in Calgary now but following the team for two weeks. Are you a Jets fan?”
Fan: “I’m a _____ fan but the Jets are my number 2 now.”
And so the conversations would carry on, but the recurring theme is that everyone we met from Calgary, Minneapolis, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver along with all the stops in between; is happy the Jets are back and they’ve become their second favorite team.
And lets face facts, the Jets returning would be a Hollywood story if they were a person. The Winnipeg Jets are the Rudy Ruettiger of the NHL. They are the little guy that no one wanted to let into the league in the first place. When they finally got in they had to constantly work to stay there and everyone thought they would fail and eventually give up. But that wasn’t the end of the story, the fans they had won over stuck with them and supported them, and eventually they got back into the league. Just like little Rudy finally got into the game. Now the question remains will the Jets have a Hollywood ending like Rudy going out and getting a tackle and a sack?
NHL fans have taken notice and the Jets are the feel good story of the year. Even fans of Detroit, Vancouver and Calgary – some of Winnipeg’s biggest rivals of the past – are glad to have them back and want to see them do well this year. They’re hopping for the Hollywood ending and you can bet if the Jets were a person and not a team, that someone would have been writing the next Hollywood blockbuster around their return; who knows they still might be.
So we know that the Jets are number 2 in a lot of hearts, but what we don’t know is how the die-hard Jets fans feel about their teams new found popularity. And as a fan, are you OK with being number 2 in places you weren’t on the map before?