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As Winnipeg is finally -- finally! -- awarded a team today, here's a dose of obvious from the old Sun column that I wrote in January, 2005:

Winnipeg might be a city most of us fly over and rarely think about, but at the World Juniors, some of their residents caught my attention.

The between-period segments on TSN were mildly amusing. The network showed shots of fans on the concourse, clutching medals that looked like they were pilfered from a junior high science fair, and displaying more signs than a WWE event. I was just about to flip over to The Score when I heard it for the first time:

“Go Jets Go! Go Jets Go!”

You’ve got to be kidding. How drunk were they? Apparently not so much that they didn’t know what they were doing – these weren’t regular hockey fans. These were Winnipeg Jets fans. They had a cause and a camera pointed right at them. It was a golden opportunity to get the message out.

Jets fan has been battling for nearly ten years to get their beloved franchise back. Since then, they’ve seen their former team become insignificant while it sits in an indifferent city. Now Winnipeggers have a beautiful new building, a seemingly unquenchable fan base and winters that have always lasted nearly 6 months. Why wouldn’t they want their team back – what else is there to do in Winnipeg?

One of the knocks on a possible proposal is the size of the MTS Centre. The building’s hockey seating is 15,015 people, which would make it the smallest in the NHL. However, television cameras around the league constantly display empty seats. We’re guilty of it on occasion, even in Ottawa. The Buffalo Sabres were planning to lower ticket prices for the 2004-05 season, in spite of an increase in payroll. They can’t fill the building. Quality of play is an issue, but so is the size of some NHL arenas. With a smaller building and a built-in fan base, Winnipeg could be on to something.

Obviously a restructured CBA benefits Winnipeg as well – the small markets need all the help they can get. And surely even Gary Bettman couldn’t ignore the sheer volume of Canadian fans taking over an international hockey event in the U.S. You can’t keep forcing hockey down the throats of Americans forever. It’s not lucrative, and has proven to be mostly unsuccessful.

Nearly a decade of support for a franchise that doesn’t exist – how much more proof do you need? Give the Jets back to Winnipeg.

1 response to "Ottawa Sun Rewind - On Winnipeg"

  1. I miss your old colums. I use to look forward to your random Sunday thoughts and observations.