One of the newest casualties of the NHL’s lockout may be the excitement of fans in the league’s newest city.
When the NHL came back to Winnipeg during the 2011 off-season, the city couldn’t have been more electric. Fans crowded the city’s main intersection at Portage Ave. and Main St., and they flocked to tourist destination The Forks for a party that stretched from the time of the announcement until long into the night.
Devon Barker, who was interning in an eighth grade art class when the announcement came down, said her class was stopped to watch the conference live.
“The class was excited,” said Barker, laughing. “It brought a bit of enthusiasm to a rather lackluster art class.”
Barker added the students had been talking about the imminent announcement all morning, and some of the children were even wearing Jets gear from their original incarnation.
Donny Braemer, who isn’t necessarily sour on the Jets, is more than fed up with the NHL.
“I’m more fed up with the Board of Governors,” said Braemer. “I know it’s players and owners, not just the Jets. I would say I’m upset at the league as a whole, it’s not just one team.”
“They didn’t move the team to Winnipeg from Atlanta to be locked out,” added Braemer.
Patrick Williams, who covers the Jets for NHL.com, said Jets fans haven’t really been voicing their displeasure as much as other markets.
“I haven’t really heard that sentiment outside of a handful of people,” said Williams, via email. “However, I have been very surprised by the lack of talk about the lockout in Winnipeg, given the level of fan interest last season. People here seem very non-chalant about it.”
Before his gig with NHL.com, Williams covered the AHL and, being based out of Manitoba, he was able to see first hand the support that the Moose garnered from the hockey community in Winnipeg. Williams did say, however, that the NHL reigns supreme no matter the case.
“For the vast majority of people here, having an NHL team – even a mediocre team – trumps having a winning AHL team,” said Williams.
In a town known for its frivolity, the Moose were a better “deal,” and much more affordable for a family of four. (As a proud Winnipegger, even I can admit that the city is known to spend the extra gas money to drive across the entire city to save a buck.) But Winnipeggers are now paying for a premium product.
While there are the few who would rather have the AHL team back – some who would argue that at this point hockey is hockey, and in this trying time, something is better than nothing – it seems as though the majority of Winnipeggers are steadfast in thinking its NHL or bust.