I asked my good friend from the Jets twitterverse, RJ Pangman to tweet and sum up his experience as it happened. I wanted to get a sense of what it was actually like to be there from a fan perspective. RJ is a season ticket holder and long time ROTJ supporter. Here is his perspective from right after the game. I have edited as little as possible:
"I wake up in the morning, and it's raining out. Not just raining, but pouring. Seems fitting, in a year where we had maybe 5 days of rain all summer, lasting at most a couple of hours. It's supposed to rain all day. It's cold out too. Do I care? Not one iota. It's Jetsmas, or as KJ79 (Justin) calls it, 'Happy Jetsyear' It's here. The day has finally arrived. Am I excited? You bet I'm excited. Justin texts me: "I'm trying to be calm but it's too hard with you not to be excited".
Maybe some NHL 2012 will calm me down. NOPE, maybe taking a walk in the rain? NOPE. I've waited 15 long years 15 LONG F'ING YEARS. I remember how sad I was that cold day in April. The day Detroit ended the Jets. I don't fault them, hell I've been cheering for them faithfully for the past 15 years.
As 3:30 in the afternoon approaches, KJ pops by, we go grab some liquor for some pre-gaming. ($10 a drink at MTS I'm going to make sure I have a few before hand to stay not broke lol.) We play some NHL 12 online against opponents as the Jets. As we play we have some surreal moments. We're playing as the Jets, and not just the team we made so we could pretend we're back...WE ARE BACK!
We head to A&W for some eats and to calm our nerves. People smile as we walk in with our Jets Jersey's, not because we're hopeless Jets fans, on a wing and a prayer, but because we're like some 400,000 other Manitobans that love our team. OUR TEAM, OUR JETS! We drive down around 6 pm an hour and a half prior to game time. As we walk up to the MTS Centre, among the fans pouring in, I just try and soak in (while getting soaked) this moment. It reminds me of May 20th. Standing at Portage and Main. The impromptu celebration after Steven Brunt's announcement. This has the same feel. The party for the real fans, the true fans, the people that have waited 15 years for this, 15 long years. No longer is it, "If Winnipeg were to support a franchise", "If Winnipeg could get corporate support", or "When Winnipeg would be able too..." , no this is here and now. We're back in the big leagues. No more Hamilton, Hershey, Marlies, or Ice Dogs. We're done with the Wilkes-Berries, and the Rochester's, it's time for Montreal, Washington, Toronto (boo), Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo (MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLERRRRRRRRRRR) We're back, we're here, and we're ready.
So as we enter the building, we walk up to the ticket guys to scan our tickets, KJ goes ahead and goes in, I literally stopped. I had to take a moment, and realize, this was it, this was the first time in this building as a Jets fan, I was entering it, no longer a Moose season ticket holder, hoping that one day we'd get our team back, but as a Winnipeg Jets season Ticket holder. This is it, I enter, and the moment you enter, it's INSTANT ELECTRICITY. No words can describe the feeling. It really was surreal. We already had it in mind to head down to behind the benches to watch warm up, but were denied. They said that you must go to your section and stay there. (I see the rent a cops are in full force) after some navigating we managed to get down there. As the clock counts down to warm-up the building fills up. I've have to say, it was the most intense warm up count down ever. The clock went so slowly. But when they hit the ice, the building exploded, I'd say there had to be 10000 by that point.
I make my way back to my seats in anticipation for the drop of the puck. As we inch closer and closer, the place inches closer and closer to eruption. The last 3 minutes to game time, tried to be a tribute to old and new, but the place is too loud. Between cheering, and "Go Jets Go" chants, you can barely hear yourself, and you certainly can't hear the PA announcer. I have no idea what song they came out too. When they hit that ice, (I shake my head as I type this) the intensity of the place, the building, the city, just EXPLODES, 15 years, we've been waiting for this moment. It's here. It's pandimodom. They're trying to say the Jets starting lineup but it's crazy. Then, the memorial for the fallen. It was nice that when we all realized it was on the screen, not a soul said anything, no "go jets go" no idiots yelling jets (ala rider fans who cheer during moment of silences) we all give our cheers to the fallen. It was a good tribute. As much of a mood killer as it was, it didn't stop us from chanting during the anthem.
Puck drop. It's here, it's on the ice, and right off the hop, Big Buff makes his presence known, throwing a big hit. CLB, though to their credit, wouldn't roll over, they stood up and took on Big Buff and Stuart in a fight mere seconds in. From that point on we knew we were back, it set the tone, that it wouldn't be easy, that we'd have to earn our stripes, but in our building, we won't lay down.
Now I could go on and on about this game, but I'll speed things up a bit. I can't say enough for the young talent on our team, but I'd like to see how they do against a full NHL team. Scheifele was amazing, but I really was surprised at Paul Postma and Alexander Burmistrov. As great offensively as Postma was, his defence was equally as good. I counted 3 blocked shots and 4 take a ways. Solid defence, including breaking up a potential break a way when it was 2 -1 Jets. But Burmistrov's board work, and Datsyukian Dekes we're unreal for me. The kid has tremendous talent. Hopefully he can be that star we need him to be. Big Buff was a star in him self. The crowd loved him, and he fed off of it, with his big hits, or rough work after the whistle. He'll be loved no matter what the charges are.
Pavi made some unreal saves, and looked at ease in net, I was disappointed that we put Abescher out there in the 3rd when it was only 3 -1. Very risky. Especially because I felt that this was a must win, this and the home opener. You don't disappoint your fans, by laying a goose egg on home soil on opening night. But he held on, so it is moot. But I wasn't a fan of that.
The guy I was disappointed in was Antropov. The guy just looks like a big beast, like him and Buff could destroy people. But he was soooooo slow. @TJCAPS said his board work is good and he looked good but I didn't see that, all I saw was that it looked like Antropov was always at the end of a shift, and he'd just have gotten on the ice. Other than his fight, Patrice Cormier was invisible to me, in fact, just prior to the fight I was looking at the lineup card and said, is Cormier playing???
In the end, our stars shined at home, and our 1st rounder stole the show. Mark Scheifele will be a star one day, but lets hold off the parade giving him a roster spot, let him play one more year in Jr's, because as great as he was offensively, his back checking was very suspect. He had at least 3 give a ways that I remember, and one that led to a break a way (broken up by Postma)
Jets win 6 -1 but lose in CLB's 5 - 1, but all I see is Jets win 7 - 6 against CLB's. 15 years ago, we were gone, 15 years later, we're back. GO JETS GO"
I found Pangers take on Shceifele interesting. I was one of the people planning the parade last night, but I guess there are things that you see at the game that can't be seen on TV.
Good job Panger, we'll look forward to more from you in the future.