Winnipeg Jets fans waited 15 long years for the NHL to return. Yet here we are, already looking ahead to the Jets’ ninth season back in Winnipeg. Where has the time gone?
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There have been a lot of big moments in the last eight seasons, some happy and exciting, others sad and disheartening. Let’s look back and re-live the five greatest moments in Jets 2.0 history.
5 – Jets’ 2018 Playoff Run
In 2017-18, the Jets had their best regular season and playoffs since their return to Winnipeg in 2011. They finished with 114 points (second in the NHL) and were red hot going into the 2018 Playoffs. They were firing on all cylinders, finishing the season with a 15-3-1 record (9-0 at home) in March and April.
The Jets faced the Minnesota Wild in the first round, a team they defeated three out of four times in the regular season. The Wild were unable to fend off the Jets’ firepower, losing the series in five games. The Jets outscored the Wild 16-9 over those five games, including a 5-0 series-clinching win in Game 5.
Next up, was the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators. Most Jets fans were nervous about this series. After some hard-fought games over the course of the regular season, these two heavyweights had started an intense rivalry. Everyone wanted a Nashville versus Winnipeg matchup come the playoffs. Wish granted, and what a matchup it was – back and forth each shift, each period, and each game – the series lived up to its expectations.
The Jets won the series in seven games, the highlight being the Game 3 comeback victory. The Jets were down 3-0 after the first period, before scoring four goals in the second (three were 2:51 apart) and taking the game 7-4. Bell MTS Place was the loudest I have ever heard it during that game. This was an unforgettable series that took the Predators – Jets rivalry to another level.
The hype was growing. The Jets’ “Whiteout Street Party” grew from anaverage of 9,000 people per game to over 20,000 per game as the team entered the Western Conference Final for the first time in Jets (1.0 and 2.0) history.
The Jets faced the Vegas Golden Knights in the third round, a team no one was expecting to make the playoffs. Things started well for the Jets, winning Game 1 by a 4-2 score and dominating every aspect of the game. I think a lot of Jets fans had the Stanley Cup Final in their sights after this game, thinking this could be their year. Those thoughts were short-lived, however, as the Jets sputtered and lost the next four games in a row, losing the series in five games.
Even though the Jets’ 2018 playoff run fell short, there was still a lot to be proud of. This was the most exciting Jets team I have watched since their return to Manitoba’s capital. Fans swarmed the streets by the thousands during home games and packed the Bell MTS Place during away games. The province shut down when the Jets went on their 2018 playoff run, something most fans will never forget.
4 – Honouring Kroppy
Len Kropioski, better known as Kroppy, became a Jets superfan and icon over the past eight seasons. Kroppy, a World War II veteran, drove two-and-a-half hours from Kenora, Ontario to Bell MTS Place, to watch every Jets home game.
Back in the early stages of the 2011-12 season, Kroppy was shown on the jumbotron near the end of the Canadian national anthem, singing and saluting, followed by a big thumbs up to the crowd. From that moment on, it became a tradition for him to appear on the big screen near the end of every Canadian national anthem. Fans let out loud cheers for Kroppy as he quickly became a fan favourite.
Kropioski passed away in Sep. 2016, at the age of 98. The tributes poured in as fans and players were deeply saddened of the news. The Jets honoured Kroppy with a tribute video prior to the start of their season-opening game in 2016-17 versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
Here are a few examples of just how much of an impact Kroppy had on the Jets organization, their fans, and the city of Winnipeg:
He missed a stretch of games near the end of the 2015-16 season due to health problems. Fans and players took notice of his absence. When he returned for the Jets’ home game on March 30, 2016, he was brought to tears by a standing ovation. Michael Hutchinson honoured him by having a painting of Kroppy’s face on his mask for the 2017-18 season. Upper Deck released a collectible hockey card in his honour.
Kroppy was truly loved by everyone and will never be forgotten for his passion, friendliness and big smile he had on his face during every anthem.
3 – The Return of Teemu Selanne
It was Dec. 17, 2011. The Anaheim Ducks were in town to face the Jets. This meant one thing to Jets fans – The return of Teemu Selanne.
Selanne was drafted by the Jets 11th overall in 1988 and went on to play four seasons for them, from 1992-96 – the most memorable being his rookie year. He scored 76 goals and racked up 132 points in his 1992-93 rookie season – 76 goals in a rookie season is a record we will likely never see broken. His time with the Jets came to an end, however, when he was traded to the Ducks midway through the 1995-96 season. The ”Finnish Flash,” was not forgotten, though.
Selanne will always have a special place in the hearts of Jets fans and they showed him just how true that statement is on Dec. 17, 2011.
Jets fans packed the Ducks end of the ice for warmups, Selanne jerseys were everywhere, and cheers reigned down as he entered the ice. Chants of “Teemu” blasted through the MTS Centre before the start of the national anthems. Fans cheered every time he touched the puck during play for nearly the entire game. He registered two assists that game and fans cheered the Ducks goals, knowing Selanne’s name was soon to be announced. The Jets played a tribute video for him during one of the stoppages, and Selanne received a standing ovation. The cheering during the video was almost deafening.
Fans were beyond excited to see Selanne play live one more time.
2 – First Home Playoff Game Since 1996
April 20, 2015, the Jets host their first playoff game in 19 years. What a day it was, despite the outcome of course. I was lucky enough to attend this game and I can tell you it ranks up there as one of the best moments in my life. The “Winnipeg Whiteout” was back in full force and it was truly a sight to see.
The anticipation for this game was crazy. It was all people were talking about. Hot 103.1 Virgin Radio released a “Jets 2018 playoff anthem” that I still listen to to this day.
Jets fans packed the MTS Centre for warmup! I have never in my life seen any arena, stadium, you name it, packed for a warmup. It was deafening with chants and cheering throughout, as the teams got prepared for game three. If that doesn’t get you pumped to play, I don’t know what will.
I was not lucky enough to experience the whiteout in the Jets 1.0 days – seeing the stands packed in all white for the first time since then, not being able to hear yourself think afterStempniak scored the first home playoff goal since 1996, was all something I will never forget.
The game itself was crazy, back-and-forth, tense, loud, it really could not have been a better experience albeit one thing.
As we all know, the Jets went on to lose Game 3 5-4 in overtime and was eventually swept in four games. This, however, doesn’t take away the impact these two home playoff games had on me, the Jets organization and the fans of this great team, not one bit. The return of the playoffs will always be something I will remember fondly and I am sure most fans will agree with me. Win or lose – playoff hockey and the whiteout was back in Winnipeg.
1 – First Jets 2.0 Regular Season Game
The top moment has to be the official return of NHL hockey in Winnipeg for the first time in 15 years. Again, regardless of the outcome, this was a special moment for Jets fans and the city of Winnipeg. The NHL was back, something a lot of fans never believed would actually happen, myself included.
Related: Winnipeg Jets Home Opener History
I was also lucky enough to attend that game and it ranks slightly above the Jets first home playoff game. Tickets were being sold for upwards of $1500; do I regret not selling mine after the outcome? Nope.
The Jets losing (5-2 against the Montreal Canadiens) was only a small blemish on a rather incredible day – another one Jets fans will never forget.
Like the Jets first playoff game, the MTS Centre was nearly packed for warmup. The chants reigned down throughout the entire game. Nik Antropov’s first goal absolutely blew the roof off the building. Fans covered the streets, The Forks, Portage and Main, and local bars with Jets colours from the early morning till hours after the game – you could feel the passion and excitement the city was dying to let out.
NHL hockey was back in Winnipeg, and it is not going anywhere again, anytime soon!
While these are all great moments in Jets 2.0 history, some of you may have other opinions. Let’s hear some great moments you think should be added in the comment section below.