The Winnipeg Jets’ 10 home openers since relocating from Atlanta have run the gamut from awful to awesome. Here’s a look back at each game that kicked off the home portion of the Jets’ schedule that season.
Oct. 9, 2011: The First Jets 2.0 Regular Season Game
It was a game many thought would never come. It was the game that marked the end of a 15-year NHL drought. It was a game that began the healing process for an entire city. It was a game that, if you were one of the 15,000 fortunate enough to have tickets, made you the envy of hundreds of thousands of ‘Peggers. It was a game that 100,000 people gathered around a giant screen at The Forks to witness. It was the historic and triumphant return of the NHL to Winnipeg. The then-MTS Centre was rocking. The excitement was palpable as the Jets faced the Montreal Canadiens.
It was also the game that completely exposed how little talent the newly located franchise truly had and how much work it was going to take to erase the Atlanta Thrashers’ myriad mistakes and years of terrible drafting.
Michael Cammalleri scored just over three minutes into the game and the Canadiens took a 2-0 lead into the third period. It was 2:27 into the final frame that Nikolai Antropov scored the first regular season goal in Jets 2.0 history, shoveling in a Mark Stuart point shot past a sprawling Carey Price.
However, 2-1 is as close as the Jets would come — the Canadiens rattled off three consecutive goals after that en route to a decisive 5-1 victory.
Jan. 19, 2013: Not Worth the Wait
The Jets would have to wait 15 months to have another home opener, as the 2012-13 NHL lockout dragged on more than 100 days, forced the cancellation of more than 600 games, and delayed the start of the NHL season until the dead of January.
The Jets welcomed the Ottawa Senators for the first game of their condensed 48-game schedule, but it didn’t go much better than 2011’s matchup against the Canadiens. Dustin Byfuglien — one of few still left with the Jets by 2018 — actually gave the Jets an early lead exactly six minutes into the first period on the power play.
However, that was the only Jets goal of the night. The Senators would score four straight, including an empty netter, and outshot the Jets 37-28 in the process. The star of the game was Erik Karlsson, who tallied a goal and two assists.
Oct. 4, 2013: Dethroning the Kings
The second Jets’ home opener of the 2013 calendar year went a lot better than the first.
The Kings took a first-period lead on a Matt Greene goal, but less than two minutes later, Evander Kane scored to tie the game. Kane’s goal was the first of four straight for the Jets — Olli Jokinen scored to make it 2-1 in the second and Devon Setoguchi notched a pair less than three minutes apart in the third. Setoguchi and Kane both tallied three points on the night.
The Kings would mount a third-period comeback and cut the lead to 4-3 with less than five minutes to go, but Bryan Little cemented the Jets’ first home-opener win since relocation with a goal with less than a minute to play to make the final score 5-3.
Oct. 17, 2014: Blanked By a Budding Rival
After starting their 2014-15 season off with three straight road games, the Jets finally opened the home portion of their fourth season in Winnipeg on Oct. 17 against the Nashville Predators.
Unfortunately, they would send their fans home without celebrating even once, as Pekka Rinne stole the show with a 31-save shutout and helped the Predators push the Jets record in home-openers to 1-3.
The rough-and-tumble game featured a big third-period scrum that made clear the budding rivalry between the two Central Division foes. A little more than a year later, the Jets and Predators played a game that was so chippy the penalty boxes literally couldn’t fit everyone who belonged in them.
While the Jets finished the October portion of the 2013-14 schedule below .500, they finished 43-26-13 and qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.
Oct. 16, 2015: A Dramatic Finish Against the Flames
Like 2014-15, the Jets began their season on the road. Returning to the MTS Centre with a 3-1 record, they continued their early winning ways with a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
Definitely the most dramatic of their five home-openers to that point, the game saw Dustin Byfuglien break a 1-1 deadlock with just 1:28 left in the third period.
After forcing a turnover in the defensive zone, the big Minnesotan rumbled through the neutral zone, pulled a ridiculous deke to get around Dennis Wideman on the side boards, and deposited the puck past Kari Ramo on the short side from a sharp angle before holding his stick up in a “look-at-what-I-just-did fashion.”
Blake Wheeler would add an empty-netter in the final minute. Unfortunately, despite their strong early start, the Jets would falter badly in November. Ultimately, they won eight fewer games than the year before and missed the playoffs.
Oct. 13, 2016: A Big Comeback Against the Hurricanes
With the Carolina Hurricanes leading 4-1 5:02 into the third period, it appeared as if the game was all but over and the Jets were going to fall to 2-4 in home openers.
However, the Jets stormed back. Wheeler scored to cut the lead to two, and then-rookie Patrik Laine scored his first regular season NHL goal to draw the Jets within one. With just 1:29 left to go, Mathieu Perreault scored on a deflection to tie the game up.
The Jets completed the comeback in overtime when Mark Scheifele pounded a one-timer top shelf past Cam Ward’s outstretched glove after the budding superstar took a pass from Blake Wheeler on a two-on-one. The 5-4 win evened up the Jets’ home-opener record at 3-3.
Oct. 4, 2017: Crashing in a Clash of Canada
While 2016’s home opener was undoubtedly one to remember, 2017-18 was undoubtedly one to forget. The Jets entered the season with expectations higher than ever. In their home opener, they faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, a similarly powerful and youthful team.
The Maple Leafs absolutely pumped the Jets in the most lopsided of the Jets’ seven home openers thus far. They victimized starting goaltender Steve Mason and a discombobulated Jets defence for seven goals, including three in the final five minutes of the first period. No fewer than six Maple Leafs had multi-point games, with James Van Riemsdyk and Auston Matthews putting up three apiece.
The brutal beatdown, along with an eerily similar 6-3 loss to the Flames a few days later, led to Jets fans prematurely panicking that the plane that was supposed to reach new heights was crash landing instead. However, the Jets stabilized themselves soon after and played their best and most exciting season since relocation, winning a franchise-high 52 games and advancing all the way to the Western Conference Final.
Oct. 10, 2018: Campbell (Nearly) Steals the Show
In their second home-opener meeting involving the Kings, the Jets peppered backup goaltender Jack Campbell — thrust into the crease after Jonathan Quick suffered an injury in practice a few days prior — with 39 shots. Campbell stopped 37 of them.
Despite being mostly stymied by the Kings’ second-stringer, the Jets still came away with a 2-1 victory, mostly because they limited their opponent to just 17 shots on Connor Hellebuyck.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first goal since returning from the KHL to open the scoring, but Mark Scheifele tied things up at one apiece with a goal from the backdoor — a goal that only happened because Josh Morrissey absorbed a huge hit from Jeff Carter to work the puck down low to Brandon Tanev.
Kyle Connor scored in the mid-second on a power play tap-in to put the Jets up 2-1, and the goal stood as the game-winner as the Jets killed a couple of third period penalties and evened their home opener record to 4-4.
Despite a strong start and many predicting they would hoist the Stanley Cup, the Jets floundered in the back half of their 2018-19. They looked especially lifeless down the stretch and bowed out in the first round to the St. Louis Blues.
October 10, 2019: Three-Goal Third Lifts Jets Over Wild
After finishing a tough eastern road trip 2-2 to begin the season, the Jets returned to the friendly confines of Bell MTS Place to face their closest geographical rival in the Minnesota Wild.
The game was tied 2-2 in the third period after Brad Hunt scored 3:09 in to erase the visitors’ one-goal defecit.
However, a few minutes later, Patrik Laine took a Neal Pionk pass at the point, dangled around his defender, and made a tape-to-tape cross-slot pass to Kyle Connor. The latter quickly deposited the puck past Devan Dubnyk’s blocker to regain the lead.
Less than a minute later, Jack Roslovic doubled the home side’s advantage, banging in a rebound generated from a shot Josh Morrissey took on a two-on-one.
The Jets added an empty-netter to win 5-2, their third-straight home-opener win.
It was all smiles that night, but little would they know the season would be put on pause just five months later due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and wouldn’t restart until the NHL pulled off a modified playoffs, played exclusively in Edmonton and Toronto, during the dog days of summer.
Jan 14, 2021: Laine Wills Jets to North-Division Victory
For the first — and hopefully only — time in their history, the Jets opened up a season without their raucous fans in attendance owing to the ongoing pandemic.
The 462 days between home openers felt more like a decade, but it finally happened. Even though fans had to watch from home, regular-season hockey from Bell MTS Place made the world seem a bit more normal.
The Jets, playing in the realigned all-Canadian North Division, drew the Calgary Flames as their first opponent of the shortened 56-game campaign.
Both sides knew the game would be hotly contested as the Flames knocked the Jets off in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round in August 2020 and Matthew Tkachuk injured Mark Scheifele on a questionable hit early on in Game 1.
The Jets fell behind early as Connor Hellebuyck looked shaky in the first frame and the Flames went into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead.
In the second, the Jets fought back, notching back-to-back goals courtesy of Scheifele less than a minute in and Kyle Connor on a two-man advantage. Connor was the recipient of a laser pass from Laine — who had also scored in the first period on a breakaway — on that game-tying goal. Laine later came Connor’s defence, as Connor had been crosschecked from behind into the boards by Noah Hanifin, and got into the middle of a spirited scrum late in the second.
The third was goalless and the game went into overtime, the first Jets home-opener to feature an extra frame. Laine, not satisfied with his two points, took the puck from his own zone and fanned on his shot attempt entering the offensive zone. He quickly regained the biscuit, though, and popped it past Jacob Markstrom to complete the comeback and extend the home opener winning streak to three.
The 2020-21 home opener was the first of 56 games in just 114 days for the Jets. It’ll be quite a ride to watch them attempt to regain their Stanley Cup contender status in this one-of-a-kind campaign.
This article was originally written in Oct. 2018 and was updated in Oct, 2019 and again in Jan. 2021.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.