The best moment of the NHL season so far was not Phil Kessel’s hat trick, Philadelphia’s great start, or the Bruins’ wonderful Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony. The best moment happened from 5 to 5:20 p.m. Sunday night with the opening of the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
After 5,642 days without an NHL team, the fans of Winnipeg were ready. The festivities started with the introductions of each and every player on the Winnipeg roster, including those not dressed. The fans were as loud as possible, welcoming their new heroes to Winnipeg.
However, the most touching moment came when the tribute to Rick Rypien, who played for the Manitoba Moose and signed with the Jets over the summer, was started. A video montage of Rypien featured photos from his youth and video highlights from his days in Winnipeg with the Moose and in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks.
For our American readers, Sunday is Thanksgiving in Canada. I cannot think of anything for hockey fans everywhere to be thankful for than the return of the Jets to Winnipeg.
- Nice touch by the NHL Network in showing the last game played in Winnipeg – a loss to Detroit in the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs. Watching the game, it reminds you the league was destined to return, as the fans stayed in the arena for over an hour cheering and thanking the Jets before they departed to Phoenix.
- It should not be that shocking, as he is one of the premier players in the NHL, but Mike Cammalleri will forever be in the
record books for scoring the first-ever goal in MTS Centre. It was vintage Cammalleri, as he rifled a wrist shot past Ondrej Pavalec to quiet the Winnipeg crowd. Sadly he was injured later and missed the rest of the game.
- One of the game’s greats was honored on Saturday in Denver, as Peter Forsberg had his No. 21 retired and raised to the rafters of the Pepsi Center. Fittingly, the opponent was the Detroit Red Wings – a team with whom Forsberg and the Avs enjoyed a fierce rivalry through most of the 1990s. Congratulations to the 38-year-old Forsberg, who was forced out of the game too early. Even as a Wings’ fan, I always appreciated the skill, talent, and intensity Forsberg brought to the game.
- The Blair Betts saga was quite interesting. Claimed on waivers from the Flyers by the Canadiens, Betts was sent back to Philadelphia because he failed a physical [see NHL by-law 11.87(a)]. Now the Flyers are in a tough spot, as they have 50 players under contract. The 50 does not include rookie Sean Couturier, who has yet to play in his 11th game. That means that after Couturier plays game 10, the Flyers must either sed him back to juniors, waive a different player and hope someone picks him up, or give Betts his unconditional release.
- The aforementioned Kessel had a great night on Saturday, notching a hat trick in a 6-5 Toronto win over Ottawa, but he may have been outdone by Nashville’s David Legwand, who scored two goals and assisted on two others in the Preds’ 4-2 win over St. Louis.
- Other Saturday stars include Detroit’s Ty Conklin (shutout over Colorado), Boston’s Rich Peverley (two goals in win over Tampa Bay), Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (game-winner against Calgary), Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov (20-save shutout over New Jersey), and Martin St. Louis (300th career goal in loss to Boston).
- Looking forward to a great week 2, starting with a Columbus Day matinee between Colorado and Boston at 1 p.m. Monday! Drop the puck!