GO JETS GO!

FINALLY…. I HAVE GONE BACK… TO AN NHL GAME!

It’s been 16 years since I’ve last seen a live, regular season NHL game.

Sure, I went to one of the exhibition games when the Phoenix Coyotes played the Edmonton Oilers here in town a few years ago, but that was exhibition. Not since October 15, 1995, when the Detroit Red Wings came to down and played to a 5-5 OT draw had I seen a regular season game.

Tonight, November 17th, 2011, that all changed. The Winnipeg Jets made their return to the NHL this season, and even though I didn’t purchase season tickets, I was fortunate enough to be drawn in the public ticket lottery to purchase tickets for one of six November games, and since Alexander Ovechkin was coming to town with the Washington Capitals, why not take the chance to see one of the best as I cheered on the Jets?

All I’ve heard through the first bunch of home games this year from fans, family, and friends who’ve attended is that it’s not just watching a hockey game, it’s an experience. Even though we have a smaller arena at 15,000 seats, I’ve been told it’s LOUD. The fans are crazy. The city has been bitten hard by the NHL bug, and we’re all just happy to have the game back in town.

So, I prepared for that. I’m like the fans I’ve heard talking… “So what if they lose? The NHL is back, baby!”

Stephanie and I got to the game and took our seats – excellent seats, by the way, first and second row in the middle level. Yup, we sat one behind the other, because there’s so few tickets available to the public, so pickin’s were slim. But at least we got to sit together. As the teams stepped onto the ice for the start of the game, man, you could FEEL it. When the announcer bellowed out “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome… YOUR… WINNIPEG JETS!!” the place… just… went… NUTS. It was awesome!

From even before the opening faceoff, when during the national anthem the crowd SHOUTED out the words “TRUE NORTH!” during the “true North strong and free” in Oh Canada, the crowd, all 15,000 strong, was in to every single moment. From cheering and letting out huge “OHHHHHHH!’s” every time a Jet laid a hit, made a good shot, or came up with a close play around the net, to cheering good saves by our goaltender or nice offensive plays, to giving the officials shit for questionable calls, to booing the absolute HELL out of Alexander Ovechkin, the crowd was HOT.

And to sidebar about Ovechkin… well, I lost a lot of respect for him tonight. Love or hate him, the guy is an amazing offensive player, but that’s ALL he does. When he’s on the ice, he doesn’t play defense. He just cherry picks in the high slot or the blue line waiting to take off with the puck. If he gets hit, he cries about it. He will start shit and get both teams in a scrum, but then he’ll turn and skate away from it all. When he’s losing or getting mad, he gets all upset. There was one play where he got his stick lifted by a Jet, and he thought there should have been a slashing penalty called on the play. The play continued on, and he left the ice. *Half a period later*, when the second was over, he came back on the ice and straight to the official to bitch about it, but the ref would have nothing of it and even demonstrated to Ovy how the Jet was just trying to lift his stick. It was awful. And that’s a bit sad, since he’s so talented and I was a fan of his, but now after watching him play for a full game and not just seeing highlights of greatness on TV, I have to say that he’s a big whiny bitch and I really don’t care for that all that much.

Anyway, back to the game and the crowd.

OH. MY. GOD… when the Jets scored a goal – when they lit the lamp 4 times during the game, the response from the crowd can only be described as an ERUPTION. It was that nuts. I found myself LEAPING out of my seat when we scored, it was that awesome.

It goes without saying, the fans in this city are hockey fans, and they are Jets fans. The crowds are amazing, and to be part of 15,000 people screaming “GO JETS GO” at the top of our lungs all in unison is just something that has to be experienced. It’s incredible. If you get a chance to go, don’t even worry about winning or losing. Just go and be part of that atmospshere. It is simply INSANE.

As for the team itself, we’re a young team that’s starting to come together. We have a lot of offensive talent. We have a fantastic goaltending core with starter Ondrej Pavelic and backup Chris Mason. I will even go so far as to call Pavelic an elite goaltender. He is that good. He’s solid, he moves side to side very well, his positioning allows him to stop pucks he can’t see and has no business stopping, and has great reflexes and ability under pressure. Our defense is solid. If this team can stay together for three or four years, we could seriously have a playoff team that makes the second and third rounds.

We do have to fix a couple things though. As a team, we have to take the body more. We don’t finish a lot of checks, and spend a lot of time skating with people and trying to play the puck, swinging our sticks at them or poke-checking instead of just playing physical game and then taking the puck after we’ve taken the man out. The other thing we need to correct defensively is making deadly cross-ice passes, or trying to make a long pass up the middle. We end up turning the puck over more often than we do making the play, and that is *extremely* costly in our own end.

If we can correct those two major issues, the smaller things will iron themselves out as this team grows and some of the younger players get some more experience. Bfyuglien and Enstrom are solid D-men, while Flood and Oduya show signs of excellent play as well. Up front, Nik Antropov is an offensive force, while Glass, Wellwood, Wheeler, and Slater all are young guys playing well and will become excellent players with more experience. Evander Kane is simply exciting to watch, and at 20 years old, is poised to be a superstar with the right supporting staff, and that staff is growing right in front of our eyes.

This team is going to finish well this season, and in 3 or 4 years, could very well be a force in the NHL. I can’t wait to see it happen. What a fun night of NHL hockey! I can’t wait to go back! Some pics are below!

 

Changing My Tune

When it comes to sports, and especially hockey, I’ve always been pretty opinionated. I’ve followed the NHL as far back as I can possibly remember. I used to have hockey cards pinned up on the kitchen wall. I used to know the name of every player in the league, what team they played on, and their stats for the last several years.

As a hockey fan, I’ve always been a Wayne Gretzky, Detroit Red Wings, and Edmonton Oilers fan.

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz around Winnipeg lately, you might have figured out we used to (and now once again) have this little NHL team called the Winnipeg Jets.

So, people used to ask me… why aren’t the Jets your favorite team? You should support your local team! You’re a traitor if you don’t like your local team!

Well, sorry to disappoint everyone, but back then, the Jets sucked. They got whipped from pillar to post by Mr. Gretzky and the Oilers on a yearly basis, and never came close to a Stanley Cup.

Now, it’s 15 years later. The NHL has returned to Winnipeg. And, you know something?

I’m really cheering for this team.

Win or lose, I’m a Winnipeg Jets fan.

I was originally one of the skeptics. I used all the same old excuses. Tickets are going to be too expensive. We didn’t support the Jets before, so why would we now? They’re just going to leave again.

The return of the Jets to Winnipeg has become the talk of Canada, even North America in hockey circles. The work that Mr. Chipman and Mr. Thompson, along with all of True North, has been phenomenal, and the buzz that has gripped this city is nothing short of unbelieveable.

And I’m caught up in it 120%.

It doesn’t matter if they’re called the Jets. It doesn’t matter if the logo has changed.

NHL hockey is back in town.

I follow some hockey players on Twitter, and all of the transplanted Atlanta Thrashers that are now Winnipeg Jets have been nothing short of excited to be here, stoked to play hockey in Winnipeg, and have carried themselves with a whole ton of class. Especially Evander Kane, who is now officially my favorite Winnipeg Jet.

Don’t worry, Mr. Gretzky. You’re always going to be my favorite player of all time. Don’t worry, Detroit Red Wings, you’re still my favorite team.

But, you’re going to have to move over, because the Winnipeg Jets have claimed one of the spots in my hockey heart.

I support my local team.

Winnipeg Jets Logo

I’m a Winnipeg Jets fan.

GO JETS GO!

Greatest Jerome Iginla Song EVAR

I was going to entitle this "The Greatest Thing Ever", but then I’d have to keep reusing that title as the next awesome thing I’d find on the internet would become the Greatest Thing Ever, and you, my faithful blog reader, deserve a little more variety in my post titles than that.

Anyhoo… my buddy Ryan posted this on his Facebook, and this indeed rivals the Ukranian Katy Perry polka.

I’m not the biggest Flames fan ever, but I DO like Jerome Iginla, which makes this video all the more awesome.

So, without further ado, I present to you, the Jerome Iginla Please Stay In Calgary song.

Dinner With The Great One

What’s with me and misleading post titles lately?

No, I didn’t have dinner with The Rock – although that would be incredibly freaking cool. Nor did I actually have dinner with Wayne Gretzky – I’d probably faint before I ever even touched my fork – but it sure felt like I did when I got to go to Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant (clicky) in Toronto last week while I was on course for work.

All pictures can be clicked on for a bigger version.

We roll up to the restuarant, and they have a tremendous sign up at the front:

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When you walk in to the front of the restaurant, there’s a fantastic store chock full of Gretzky merchandise: t-shirts, golf shirts, hats, pucks, tiny sticks, mugs, keychains… all kinds of stuff. And then, as you proceed inside, you see the desert display:

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Would you LOOK at the size of that cake?!? Keep that in mind. I’ll come back to that later.

So once we sat down, the place looked really good. There were two parts of the restaurant – the outer perimeter looked really snazzy, the walls done in a deep red that looked really nice, with art work and magazine covers of Wayne, and even one of Janet on the walls. The accents and tables were nice wood, so it looked cool.

Close to us was the following chalkboard:

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Someone’s got some SERIOUS MAD CHALK SKILLZ.

Our area where we were seated was right in front of the kitchen, so it was more of a diner-like setting, with a black and white checkerboard floor, and our tables were designed like small hockey rinks – each of the designed with a different scoring play from Gretzky’s career on them – drawn like you might see on a play book or football chalk board.

Our two tables had two very memorable plays – ones that I can still remember the highlights of very vivdly – of the playoff goal he scored on Mike Vernon while streaking down the left wing, and of the record-breaking goal he scored against the Oilers, when Marty McSorley made that brilliant little touch pass to a wide open Gretzky for the goal.

Wait a minute.

Did I just use the words "Marty McSorely" and "brilliant" in the same sentence?

Wow.

Anywho… continuing on…

So, we have dinner – which was pretty darned good – and we see the desert menu. Lo and behold, there’s the cake we saw earlier. A slice is $13.99, but it’s TEN LAYERS.

TEN LAYERS.

The four of us decide to go for it (the bill wasn’t mine, so they didn’t have to twist my arm very much). Here’s a shot of the cake (you’ve GOTTA click this for the big version):

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That’s our friend Becky dodging behind the FREAKING GI-NORMOUS piece of cake. Once we laid it down to cut it, IT TOOK UP TWO PLATES!!

Anyway, the cake was awesome. The food was excellent, and the four of us (myself, Stephanie, my co-worker Vern, and our friend Becky) had a real good time.

Then it was time to go sight-see.

This place is AMAZING. If you’re AT ALL a Gretzky fan, you MUST see this place before you die. Put it on your bucket list. DO IT!

Here’s some shots from around the restaurant:

Picture of Wayne with Gordie Howe:

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A framed ROOKIE JERSEY from the Oiler years:

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And right behind our table was this awesome glass display case with sticks and pucks in it. Each item held some significance in Gretzky’s career:

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If you look closely, you can see on that Titan stick up close that it was used when he broke Bobby Orr’s scoring record. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?

Then you got to walk through this AMAZING back hallway, filled with display cases FULL of stuff covering Gretzky’s entire lifetime and career. Most items are noted with their significance (ie: this jersey was worn during his last game in Toronto, or these gloves were worn scoring this point, etc). They even have the puck from his first NHL goal:

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There’s even a jersey from the legendary Vladislav Tretiak, the amazing Soviet goalie that made us all look like fools:

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Here’s a look at the case in chronological order:

As a child: (the score sheet in the background is the ACTUAL score sheet from the year he scored 368 goals as a 10 year old is 68 games. Nevermind the fact he was playing against kids much older than him!

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The teenage years: (marking his time in The Soo, and playing with Indianapolis before moving to Edmonton)

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Of course, the Oiler years, where he became a legend:

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The "Trade Heard Round The World" sent Gretzky to Los Angeles in 1988:

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There’s even some stuff from his All-Star and International play:

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Gretzky was the King of Broadway:

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And for the motherlode… one of these authentic, signed jerseys will be mine SOME DAY!!

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At the end of the night, we stopped off at the merchandise store and picked up all kinds of things Gretzky’s to give to the relatives for Christmas and birthdays. I picked up a sweet looking mug and puck.

But what trip to Toronto and talking about Wayne Gretzky would be complete without talking about the Stanley Cup? After all, Gretzky and Lord Stanley’s Mug are like bread and peanut butter – they go great together and when you think of one, you think of the other.

I was fortunate enough to have 45 minutes in the Hockey Hall Of Fame (damned place closes at 5 PM!!!), and in breezing through the place, I caught the 802 pucks for Gretzky’s goal record, and a whole whack of great jerseys and other things, but I got to see the Holy Grail of professional hockey (and touch it too!) – the Stanley Cup. We got a couple of pro shot pictures. One is of myself and the Cup, and the other is of the Cup with myself and Stephanie.

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I’ve got to go back some day and see all the rest of the great hockey memories, and spent more time just taking it all in and really just enjoying it. This was pretty rushed due to my course hours, but all in all, it was a hockey – and Gretzky – fans’ dream!

Not In The Cards

Subtitled: Nice Guys Sometimes DO Finish First

Well, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Our Oilers fell to the Hurricanes last night, and there went the Stanley Cup along with it.

Buck up, boys. You were an 8th seeded team that took one of the best teams in the league to seven games. Come on back and do it all again next year.

In my last post, I talked a little about traffic in Winnipeg.

Today, let me talk about the assholes.

So, I’m driving home yesterday, and I need to change lanes due to some heavy construction. I drift up to the car in front of me, and – unlike 97% of the rest of Winnipeggers, I actually put on my signal – and look for an opportunity to change lanes. A few seconds later, a spot opens up, but a car races in to fill it. No problem, I can still get in behind them. Another car races in to prevent me from changing. I’m a little upset, but I still have one more chance to get in.

Nope, the bastard in a big Dodge Ram truck saunters in, and – get this – EYES ME DOWN as he eases into position, effectively cutting me off.

WHAT THE HELL?

You HAD TO STOP, and you couldn’t leave me a car length, even though you SAW me signalling, and trying to get over? You DELIBERATELY add stress into my drive by being a complete jerk?

With nothing else I can do about it, I give a big sigh – which the guy catches by the way – and he SMIRKS. The asshole took PRIDE in causing me grief.

I gotta take a sidebar here, and tell everyone that Winnipeggers are notorious for doing this. NO ONE lets people in to change lanes. Doesn’t matter if you’re a regular vehicle, a bus, or an ambulance.

YES, EVEN AN AMBULANCE.

We should take the “Friendly Manitoba” off our license plates and give all cars registered in Winnipeg a special plate that says: “Winnipeg. Yup, we’re all pricks.”

So, back to my particular asshole.

If you don’t have a chance to stop, then fine, I can live with that. But this guy deliberately cut me off and ENJOYED it. So here’s where I cross the nice line and join the riff-raff that is the unwashed masses of regular everyday drivers in this bloody city.

I normally don’t do this kind of stuff, but this guy needed to be shown up.

I see several feet in front of him, so I stick the nose of my RAV4 in between him and the car ahead of him. He doesn’t have a CHOICE now but to let me in. And the funny thing is, the guy starts LOSING it. He’s all pissed off that I’d have the AUDACITY to attempt such a maneuver. And, like a true prick, he tries to edge even closer, and almost hits me with his truck. He’s chirping at me, so of course, I chirp back, using some colorful metaphors (bonus points if you know what movie that phrase came from) – even though we’re both behind closed windows.

Hilarious.

So, traffic begins to move, and I get to push my way in front the guy, taking the opportunity to flip him the finger as I do so, and of course, he doesn’t like it. His balding head goes red to match the color of his face as he spouts of what I can only imagine was some primitive neanderthal jargon – I saw the cro-magnon forehead of this brilliant individual – and Stephanie and I just laugh our asses off at this jerk.

And now, for the ultimate insult.

We get out of construction, but several blocks ahead, we’re in the right hand lane, and the left hand lane is starting to back up as they wait for people to turn. I slow down and generously let the car beside me go in, then turn to the asshole behind me, and point at my good day for the deed, clearly mouthing to him “That’s how you’re supposed to do it, f*cker.”

Damn, did he ever lose it. That was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Stephanie and I laughed for blocks and blocks.

So come on, Winnipeg. Unclench your asses a little bit. Letting someone in front of you takes only seconds, and doesn’t really affect your drive. Yet, somehow, those two or three seconds is worth showing the world your true colors.

Do the nice thing once in a while.