September 20, 2011
This was the scene at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, as 15,000 fans awaited the emergence of the hometown Winnipeg Jets for the first time in 15 years.
And this was the scene afterward, as the Jets stepped out from the tunnel and were greeted by a chorus of whistles, cheers, chants of "Go Jets Go", and a three-minute standing ovation.
It was a special night in Winnipeg. From the Winnipeg Free Press:
Dancing Gabe was one of the first through the doors Tuesday evening. The fixture at Jets' games in the old Winnipeg Arena threw up his hands and cheered when he walked through.
True North made sure he could get tickets to games.
It was a split-squad game with Columbus but many of the big names on the Jets stayed at home — including team captain Andrew Ladd(notes), defencemen Zach Bogosian(notes) and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) and promising draft pick Mark Scheifele, who scored Winnipeg's second goal.
Here's a clip from the TSN feed of the opening moments, which also features, near the end, a big Dustin Byfuglien hit just after puck drop.
Byfuglien was a man possessed in his first shift as a Winnipeg Jet, buoyed either by the excitement of the crowd or those charges files against him this morning. Really, who cares which? Either way, he laid out two Blue Jackets and got into a fight, all in the first 37 seconds of the game.
Shortly after he emerged from the box, Byfuglien even picked up an assist on the first goal of the contest as well. Suffice it to say, any questions as to what he'll mean to the fans in Winnipeg are behind him.
You may notice, by the way, that the boards of the MTS Centre are blank. The ads will come later, but for tonight, this was clearly the rare preseason game that wasn't about the money. (Although the tickets went for full price, so, you know, maybe not.)
Heck, it seems unfair to even call it a preseason game. Don't tell the 15000+ in the building that this one didn't count.