To coin a phrase, “Get ready for takeoff!” The puck is set to drop at the friendly confines of what is being known as the loudest and one of the more difficult buildings to visit in the NHL. Once again yesterday I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes in the CTV studio talking hockey but for the first time this year it was about the on ice game not the politics behind the off ice drama that has ensued the past several months.
I was asked how the lockout affected the fans of Winnipeg? That was an easy question to answer as many of our readers took time to tell us their thoughts before, during and after the lockout. They wanted to know how what made Jets fans special? Another easy question that I was able to answer with a single word. Crazy! Lets face it we are all a little bit over the top for our team and we make no apologies for it.
Then there was the tough question, is the MTS Centre the toughest building for visiting teams to play in? This question took me a little off guard and my on air answer of not yet but it’s progressing that way, it’s a little soon to put it in the ranks of Detroit (Sucks!) but last year was a good start to reaching that level.
Now that I’ve had some time to ponder this question I’d like to expand on my previous answer.
The MTS Centre has something that not many (Chicago is the only other that comes to mind) arena that is packed each and every night by a majority of die-hard, hard-working fans. It’s not a Toronto where season tickets are monopolized by businesses as perks for employees and another form of entertaining clients to sign that next multimillion dollar deal. No most season ticket holders that we have come in touch with are part of a season ticket pool (part of the reason True North needs to work on their paperless system as good of an idea as it is) and must undergo a draft for tickets, selecting the games they most want to see.
The playoffs in Winnipeg when they did make it back when I was a kid was some of the craziest experiences of my life. The fans at times more entertaining than the results on the ice, the atmosphere caused even the most reserved fan to get involved. To someone who has never been a Jets fan or been to a Jets game in Winnipeg I will give you a simple comparison to what it would feel like to be a fan of the visiting team in the MTS Centre.
You are the sober person at a wedding with an open bar. You’re not having nearly as much fun as everyone else and thing they are all acting like idiots, but after you have a few drinks you end up dancing on the table with a tie around your head.
It’s that type of blue-collared atmosphere that gives the Hanger its energy and the passion for the team keeps it at Mach 10 on most nights. Only Chicago can be the comparison when you would talk about the loudest, or most knowledgeable fans. Andrew Ladd said it best in interviews this week, Jets fans know if you’re giving it your all or not and respect you when you do win or lose but will let you know when you aren’t.
To further build on that, the fans pick up on the subtleties of a game and have fun with it. They will pick up on a frustrated star player on the opposition and ride them relentlessly. “Crosby’s Better or Silver Medal” anyone? They notice the officials and pick up on bad calls and accept good calls against their team better than most fans.
These are just a few of the intangibles that Hockey fans in Winnipeg possess and why the MTS Centre is the way it is. Sometimes you don’t know why a player is special you can just sence it and I believe it’s the same way with some hockey fans. You see the potential for a player to be dominant as they grow and develop into a professional player. The MTS Centre and the fans that fill it had a Calder trophy performance in year one, and they hype is for a repeat performance in their sophomore season.
To become a legend, a player most show they are better than the rest year in and year out over a career. The MTS Centre is a tough building for the visiting team and it has the potential to become the toughest in the league. Today is day 1 or year 2, backing up the talk starts now. Repeat the atmosphere and strong record at home and bolster a growing reputation or crash back to reality and tarnish it.
So is Winnipeg the toughest building to play in for visiting teams is not a simple yes/no question. What do you think the Jets home record will be this year?