The Jets, The Coyotes, Family And Friends

Winnipeg Jets at Phoenix Coyotes Was a Special Game —

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 was a very special day for me.  It’s well into the stretch run of season three for Winnipeg Jets 2.0 and even though I was lucky enough and thrilled to be able to get a half season ticket for the Jets, I have never seen them play live.

My wife and I spend the whole winter in San Tan Valley, Arizona and we attend Phoenix Coyotes hockey games.  The Phoenix Coyotes (Jets 1.0) were my first love and I was fortunate to re-connect with them 6 years ago.  I followed them during their early years in Phoenix but with a bit of bitterness still lingering over the whole relocation fiasco.  Time eventually healed that wound.  I wish I could say the same for some of the fans in both the Winnipeg and Phoenix markets.  

I always hoped that one day the NHL would return to Winnipeg.  Against all odds, the wish came true and now I have TWO teams.  Just like your children, you love them equally.  I have to admit that a Jets-Coyotes game is the hardest game of the year for me.  I always hope for overtime and then hope the team that really, really needs the extra point gets it. 

Back to April 1, 2014.  It was my first time seeing the Winnipeg Jets play live.  In season one, the Jets visited Phoenix for the Coyotes season opener in early October which was about two weeks before we arrived for our winter pilgrimage.  In season two, the Jets didn’t play any games in the Western Conference because of the lockout.  Season three brought the Jets to Arizona in game seventy-eight of the season.  Finally!

Jobing300My wife and I had been waiting for this game for a long time.  What made this game even more special was our daughter (Tara) and two granddaughters (Makenna and Sami-Rae) were down from Winnipeg for spring break.  We had five seats together in the lower bowl and we were all hoping for a good game. 

Well, the evening started with one of the Coyotes owners singing the Canadian National Anthem.  A nice touch.  The Winnipeg Jets fans may have shouted one of the loudest “True North’s” in road trip history.  It was loud!  I was in the press box for the first period and Mark Chipman was in the box just above me and I asked him after the anthems if that was the loudest “True North” he’s heard on the road and he said, yes.

When Andrew Ladd scored, the building erupted.  It was loud.  It was actually louder than when the Chicago Blackhawks or the Detroit Red Wings visit Jobing.com Arena.  I’ve witnessed Detroit and Chicago games first hand many times and the Jets’ fans didn’t take a back seat in that department at all. 

I spent the second and third period in my seats with my family and thousands of Winnipeg Jets fans in the lower bowl.  What made me happy was the good natured fun both sets of fans had.  Of course, there will always be the occasional idiot but for the most part it was ALL FUN.  What I really enjoyed was the rhythmic chants.  The Phoenix fans would do their “let’s go Coy … otes” and then the Winnipeg fans would chant “go Jets go” perfectly alternated.  It was awesome.

Much to the chagrin of some of the Coyotes fans, the Jets fans started doing the wave.  Phoenix fans save the wave for Cardinal games and Diamondback games.  “We don’t do the wave at hockey games” bellowed some fans.  What I found amusing was that after a few wave attempts most fans from both teams were doing the wave.  So much for not doing the wave at hockey games.

Another highlight of the night for me was when the Phoenix Coyotes honoured the ASU Sun Devils ACHA National Championship Hockey Team and their captain Colin Hekle from Winnipeg.  I had a chance to chat with Colin during the game as he happened to wander over to our section with the Championship Trophy in tow.  He is a terrific young man but that’s another story.  I will be doing a piece on Colin sometimes in late April or May.

Back to the game.  It was fun to be sitting with my daughter Tara (in her Jets jersey), my wife Phyllis (in her Coyotes jersey) and my six and nine year old granddaughters just enjoying themselves.  It was nice that Makenna and Sami-Rae got to see gramma as fun gramma the Coyotes fan.

I also got to see one of my high school buddies and lacrosse teammate, Doug Forgie and his wife Deb, who were actually coworkers of mine from my MTS days. 

I sort of got my wish and the game did go into extra time with both teams getting a point.  The Coyotes really needed that extra point but Andrew Ladd and Ondrej Pavelec had something to say about that.  All in all, it was an amazing night.  The only down side to the night was the actual game. It was a DUD but thanks to the atmosphere in the building it will be a night I’ll never forget.  It was my first live Jets game and I got to enjoy it with my family and thousands of Winnipegers’, making it a very special night.  

Well done Phoenix and Winnipeg. 

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