Today I celebrate 30 years of life and imperfection and I want to share with you how the Jets have helped shaped my life. I know what you are saying already, “how can a team that was absent from my life at 14 have shaped my life?” Well let’s start at the beginning.
Some of my earliest memories are of Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Doug Smail, Pokey Reddick and Daniel Berthuime. I was raised by a gym teacher who enjoyed hockey but I was exposed to many sports. From volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, curling and many more. It was hockey that drew most of my attention and my love was for the home team.
I grew up pretending to be the Jets finally defeating the evil Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. I felt proud when Dale Hawerchuk was part of team Canada and shared in his excitement of being on the ice for “Super Mario’s” game winning goal.
My biggest joys were game nights when it was my turn to go down to the Winnipeg Arena and cheer on my Jets. The playoffs were my favorite as I loved the whiteout and was proud to be part of the loudest fans in the NHL. It helped to define me as a proud and passionate child and that transferred over to every sport or task I took on.
But then at 14 the unthinkable happened and the Jets were no more. This was my first real introduction to loss and heartbreak and I learnt how to grieve. I cried, I yelled, I ranted and I raved and eventually I accepted.
Then I believed again. I believed that one day the Jets would fly in Winnipeg again because I knew the passion. I was raised in the passion and knew how powerful it was. I was there in ’99 when the World Juniors came to town and the passion of Winnipeg was on display for the world to see. Talk started about an NHL return but it was a hushed whisper in small circles and pockets of hope and belief. For me I was learning how to deal with ridicule and mockery as I would boldly claim the Jets would be back.
Five years later the lock out happened and once again the World Juniors gave Winnipegers a chance to show their passion. Fargo, North Dakota or as it came to be known over those two weeks as “Winnipeg South” would play host to Sidney Crosby’s Team Canada against Alexander Ovechkin’s Team Russia for the gold. I learnt about luck and fortune as I was able to acquire tickets and travel with some friends to see this game in person.
It was these next seven years that I learnt that patience and perseverance could pay off. Each year the whispers grew louder and the mocking became quieter. By 2010 the return of the NHL to Winnipeg wasn’t such a joke anymore. The passion and fans were there. An arena was in place and willing and wanting owners had Bettman’s ear.
In May of 2011 it was made official and I felt such pride in my home town for getting their team back. Once the schedule and team name was announced the plan quickly came to shape for JET FUEL and the adventure of a life time took shape.
Despite their absence my life continued to revolve around the Jets. I live the values of team work and hard work, of perseverance and belief, of love and loss. The memories of the Jets helped shaped the person I am. Hockey is in our blood as Canadians and as Winnipegers the Jets are part of our identity and part of heritage. Their return will allow me to pass that heritage on to my children (when I have them) not through talk but through experience.
The Jets will teach my children about the values I learnt and for that I am thankful. Because as a Canadian, lessons learnt through hockey hit deeper and last longer than lessons learnt at school or any other aspect of life.
My thirty years have not been perfect, but the return of my Jets was the best present I could have ever asked for and
I look forward to thirty more years of yelling “Go Jets Go!” at every opportunity.