Here we are, halfway through a NHL season, and my city is the proud home of the Winnipeg Jets (version 2.0 but that's not important).
It's something that hasn't got old for me. When the Jets take the ice, whether I'm at the game or sitting at home watching on TV, my heart pounds. When I'm in MTS Centre and the team skates out, when the anthems are performed, when the puck drops, it still evokes some emotion somewhere inside me.
The tears want to slide down my cheeks, but so far I've been too proud.
Winnipeg really is like a whole new city now. I don't want this town to tie its whole identity to a hockey team, and I don't exactly think it's what's happened. It's just that when Winnipeg got called up to the big leagues, I think a lot of us realized it was our city's time to shine.
Winnipeg is full of, in the words of Chris Rock, low expectation having mutherfuckers. If you're not from Winnipeg chances are you don't expect much of this little city on the prairies. Well guess what, a lot of us that are from here have learned to expect even less. I don't think anyone has hated on Winnipeg more than actual Winnipeggers.
But now, halfway through our first season back in the NHL, the city is buzzing. As a downtown resident, it usually isn't hard to get a seat in a restaurant around here on any given night. But usually has been replaced with a new reality. Never mind when 15 thousand people show up to watch the game at MTS Centre, packing the bars and streets, on non game nights, downtown has started to pick up a bit. People have started coming downtown for dinner and drinks seemingly just because. It's mind blowing.
The Jets logo is EVERYWHERE. People of all ages are right into the spirit of things. A lot of us said Winnipeggers would never have the money for tickets, Jerseys and other merchandise but clearly, we've found a way to get it. Every time I'm at a game, people have food and drinks in hand even though the cost has gone up significantly. People want to spend their money on the team, on the night out, on having fun. Amazing, when you consider our cheap reputation.
I was lucky enough to get a half season ticket package and I was even more lucky to be at the home opener. I can't even begin to describe what it was like to be there. The excitement was palpable from two hours before the game until midnight, long after the game was done. It's just something else. I don't know that anyone will ever be able to describe it.
Anyway, I took my Dad to the New Years Eve game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which was our favourite team after the Jets left. My Dad and I have gone to a lot of sporting events over the years, a lot of Moose games specifically. But this was an emotional night for both of us. Our last Jets together was back in 1994, oddly enough, a NYE game against St. Louis, and our last NHL game was in February of 2007 in Toronto to see the Leafs play Pittsburgh.
My Dad has been taking me to these games since I was super young, he thinks I might have been three when that happened. All these years I've been thinking I was a super cool little girl that loved hockey, but as it turns out, at least for the first few years, I was more interested in the dancing Skinners hot dog they used to show on the jumbo tron at the old Winnipeg Arena.
No matter. On NYE, it was hard to choke back the tears at times because I was just so damn happy to be there with him. After all, it was because of his Moose season ticket account that we got our Jets tickets in the first place. Hockey and sports in general have been the cornerstone of our relationship for a long time.
During the course of the game we talked about lots of things, but my Dad got stuck on the fact that I, his oldest daughter is turning 30 this year.
"You're so old! You're going to be 30!" he said.
"I'm old? You're the one with the 30 year old daughter!" I responded (to which my Dad replied with his trademark 'never mind!').
My Dad kind of thought about that for a bit (about five seconds, the longest anyone with my Dad's genes can think about anything before mouthing off), and then randomly started telling me how happy he was to be there with me, and how good my sisters and me turned out and how he was so proud of us.
This is something I'm semi-sure my Dad would never have told me, to my face, were it not for the emotion of the hockey game we were at. I think it's a moment like that which serves as a testament to what this game, what this team, does for us Winnipeggers. It makes us proud to be a part of something big and encourages heart to heart talks in public places between fathers and daughters. Really, what could be better?