Since the long-awaited return of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, the city has been gripped by a renewed bout of hockey fever.
When the Winnipeg Jets played their season home opener on October 9, they found 15,000 crazed fans cheering themselves hoarse.
After all, 15 years is a long time to wait for the return of the home team.
Ever since the team returned in 2011, Winnipeg has let its Jets flag fly loud and proud. When True North Sports and Entertainment, the owners’ group, announced plans to buy the Atlanta Thrashers and move the team to Winnipeg, a street-hockey party spontaneously erupted at the corner of Portage and Main, and hundreds of other fans flocked to The Forks, where then-Mayor Sam Katz led a celebratory conga line.
When it came time to put their money where their mouths were, fans flung open their wallets too; season tickets sold out within days. After the team’s name and new logo were unveiled, hundreds of fans lined up outside the centre to buy T-shirts, baseball caps and any other gear emblazoned with the military-style maple leaf and fighter jet emblem from the Off the Rack store. The racks and shelves were virtually empty just a few hours later.
Local sports merchandise and memorabillia stores have continued to do brisk business of new Jets merchandise, and several Jets Gear stores have popped up across the city.
The return of the home team has been a big boost to the city and the province. The spinoffs are incalculable. Hotels, restaurants and retailers reap the economic benefits from visitors. Winnipeggers themselves dole out more cash, not just at game but at bars and eateries too. Adding to the draw of the symphony, ballet, theatre, festivals and museums, tourists have another reason to return.
“It’s a wonderful boon to our economy,” says Marina James, president and CEO of Tourism Winnipeg.
But the spinoffs also go beyond dollars and cents.
For locals, the team also boosts civic pride—as any visitor who has seen downtown on Game Day can surely attest.
Score a ticket, and observe the MTS Centre packed out with screaming fans (just wait for the chant of “TRUE NORTH!” during the anthem), and you’ll feel like you’ve really seen Winnipeg. And even if there are no seats available at the arena, hit the nearest lounge or bar, saddle up to a Winnipegger and ask them—between periods—what it has really meant to have the Jets land again.
For tickets and schedules, check out nhl.com/jets.
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