On February 16, 2012, thousands of Jets fans made the 750km trip to St. Paul, Minnesota to support their Winnipeg Jets against the Minnesota Wild. Jets fans traveled on buses, cars, some flew and some native Manitobans now living in and around St. Paul all united at the Xcel Energy Center to support their team.
I was one of these fans who jumped into my car at 7:30 Thursday morning, plastering my 2001 Cavalier with a few new Jets decals and putting my Jerseys and hats into the back window for everyone to see. It wasn’t long into the journey that we started to see the other Jets fans embarking on the same drive as we were. Seeing all the stickers, Jets license plates and other drivers already decked out in their jerseys. Each Jets car we passed their was an acknowledgment, a nod, a yell, a we’re number one sign and even some honks. The journey was never boring.
We arrived around 4:00 pm at our downtown Minneapolis hotel and were almost immediately greeted by other Winnipegers and their Jets jerseys and instantly we all became best friends, discussing our trips and determining the best way to get to the game. We decided on the bus. Around 9 of us crowded around the front desk for directions and bus routes. Arriving at he arena I was immediately in awe, the amount of people in Jets colors, the thousands of beautiful Jets logos, it was so much more than I had expected. Making my way to my seat I was dumbstruck. The Xcel Energy Center is one of the nicest arenas I have ever seen and filled with Jets fans, even better. The boisterous Manitobans got started right away with the Go Jets Go chants running into the national anthem where the True North exclamation seemed to mean that much more. We were ready for the game.
Right from the opening faceoff we made out presence felt, Jets fans may have been outnumbered in population, but definitely not in noise. Our constant chants, the jeers of “Baaackstrom, Baaackstrom” were louder than anything in the building. The chants were almost non-stop, even when the Jets fell behind (briefly) we never lost faith, and after Alexander Burmistrov scored the tying goal we knew this game was ours to take. The crowd in the third was absolutely wild (pun intended). The dueling chants of “Let’s go Wild” and “Go Jets Go” had the whole place rocking and the season ticket holder next to me saying “this is the best hockey game I’ve ever been to.” When Evander Kane stepped out for the shootout and was nearly hit by a premature thrown hat celebrating his hat trick to come (not really a hat trick, I know) the crowd held their breath. Kane skated in and beat Backstrom with a high shot and the Jets fans went crazy. We celebrated for what felt like forever, staying in the arena long after all the Wild fans had left, meeting up, high fiving and chanting till our throats hurt.
Hockey has always brought Manitobans together. I want to thank all of the Jets fans who were loud and proud with me. Also the ones who joined me around the computers the next night to follow the Jets Bruins game, hitting refresh on the hotel computers every few minutes to keep track of the game. This was one of the greatest most fun couple of nights in my entire life. I also want to thank all of the Wild fans who allowed us into their building and were very classy the whole night. Thousands of Jets fans made the 750km journey to Minnesota and back and for one night only we took over the Xcel Energy Center and made that building our own. We are the best fans in the NHL. Go Jets Go!