This past week, True North Sports & Entertainment celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg. Since its opening in 2004, “The Phone Booth” has hosted many concerts, special events such as The Juno Awards, sporting events, religious gatherings and of course, hockey. The Manitoba Moose of the AHL called it home from its opening until 2011, when True North purchased the Atlanta Thrashers, and moved them to the Manitoba capital.
While the Winnipeg Jets version 2.0 have yet to qualify for the postseason, there have been some memorable moments in the three years they have called the MTS Centre home. Here are the five more memorable Winnipeg Jet moments, at the corner of Portage and Hargrave.
The Return Of The NHL
The people of Winnipeg knew exactly where they were on October 9, 2011. For the lucky 15,004 in attendance that day, (and no I wasn’t in the building) it will be a day they’ll never forget. The NHL had returned to the city. As painful as seeing the original Jets leave in 1996 was, it was just as joyous as when the new Jets arrived. The energy in the building was simply electric.
While the game itself didn’t go the home team’s way, a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, it still felt like a victory for the city, and for the people of Winnipeg.
The First Win
The Jets stumbled out of the gate at the start of the 2011-12, losing their first three games of the season. Their fourth game, a home date against the Pittsburgh Penguins gave them an opportunity to right the ship. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sidelined due to injuries, the Jets had a chance to finally gain that elusive first victory.
The Jets didn’t wait long to strike. Kyle Wellwood’s goal, eight seconds into the first period set the tone. Each team scored after that and then it was nervous time. As the clock slowly ticked away, seconds felt like minutes and the minutes felt like hours. In the end, the Jets emerged with a 2-1 victory and the noise inside the MTS Centre shook the building to its foundations. An incredible night.
Thank You Teemu
When the original Jets traded Teemu Selanne to the Anaheim Ducks back in 1996, the fans didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the Finnish Flash. Selanne was by far the most popular player amongst Jets fans since his amazing rookie season in 1992-93 season, in which he scored 76 goals.
Selanne made his first appearance at the MTS Centre on December 17, 2011 and was given a tremendous standing ovation by the Jets faithful. (Selanne did make an appearance in 2004, for the final event at the old Winnipeg Arena.) So loud was the ovation, that Teemu was moved to tears by the crowd. The anthem was delayed and everyone was taken aback. During the game, Selanne was cheered when he touched the puck while the rest of the Ducks were booed when they had the puck.
It turned out perfect for Jets fans. Selanne did record two assists, but the Jets emerged with a 5-3 victory. When Selanne was named the game’s third star, another thunderous standing ovation ensued as Selanne skated around the ice, waving to the fans. It was truly memorable.
One thing Jets fans are known for is their creative chants. While those chants have dropped off recently, the first season saw the fans get inventive on how to throw off the opposition.
No better example than during a game against the Buffalo Sabres on March 5, 2012. Ryan Miller was the Sabres goalie at the time and the 2010 Olympics were still fresh in many Canadians memory. Miller, of course was the goalie for the United States in Vancouver when Sidney Crosby scored the famous “golden goal” for Canada.
It started in the third period when Blake Wheeler scored a gorgeous breakaway goal, as he picked the top corner over Miller’s glove hand. Not long after Chris Thorburn scored on a nice individual rush. The fans got involved. A chorus of “Silver Medal” reigned down from the rafters. It was so loud that Miller was trying to shield the noise by hiding in his own net. It didn’t work. Miller’s body language said it all.
While there have been other chants, the cries of Silver Medal will never be forgotten.
Classic Versus Penguins
It looked like just another game on the schedule. On November 6, 2014, the Penguins were making their only appearance of the season in Winnipeg. But it turned out to be much more than that.
In what arguably is the best game played at the Phone Booth since the NHL returned, the Jets and Penguins engaged in a thrilling, physical contest that featured three fights and end-to-end action.
The Jets rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game early in the third period, thanks to a breakaway goal from Evander Kane. From there the intensity picked up as both teams were going for the win.
It's the NHL, so every game is special, but tonight's game in particular was an absolute pleasure to write.
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) November 7, 2014
I'll say this right now, and I won't be alone in this building: That was one of the better @NHL games anywhere this season.
— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) November 7, 2014
After much thoughtful contemplation, I'd like to announce that Jets vs. Pittsburgh is a v. entertaining incident of the hockeysport
— Melissa Martin (@DoubleEmMartin) November 7, 2014
Ultimately the game went into a shootout where Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh and giving the Pens the win. But the Jets showed the hockey world that they could play with one of the top teams in the league. It was a passionate game that had a playoff feel to it. Jets fans are hoping for more games like that with a slightly different result.
I share season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets since their return to the Manitoba capital in 2011. I have written about the Jets since 2011 on various sites.