Tonight something special is going to happen. A team will once again hit the ice under the moniker “Winnipeg Jets”. Later this week these same Jets will play teams named the Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers, for the first time in a long time. The new Jets era will have begun with the rookies invading Penticton and it all just seems so very surreal. After all the tragedy the hockey world has endured these last few months, it truly seems as though the start of the Jets season will mark a new beginning and a chance for everyone to put the recent and not so recent past behind them.
Today I opened my Twitter feed and read the sour news that the last remaining Lokamotiv player, Alexander Galimov had died of injuries he sustained in the devastating plane crash of just a few days ago. I'm hoping this is the last body blow that hockey fans have to face before the start of a new season. Not so recently the deaths of Boogard, Rypien, and Belak caused us all to look at the role of fighting and the enforcer. They also smashed open the silence that surrounded depression and pro sports. Still we could somehow make sense of this and try to fix the issues that had afflicted these individuals (A task that is ongoing). But then fate dealt us something we couldn’t make sense of. The cruel hand of probability took away an entire pro-hockey team in Russia. Sure we could blame shotty regulations, bad fuel, and old planes but it was hard to compute the loss of an entire team. Familiar names from the NHL and up and coming young Russian players were erased in seconds. The KHL, Russia, and hockey fans around the world where left reeling.
So, while going through my twitter feed this morning, I was feeling particularly surely after the news of Galimovs death. I saw some inflammatory tweets by Phoenix sports DJ Roc, from Roc and Manuch. I decided to get into it with him and traded jabs online. It was in trading comments with him that I had a bit of a realization; I don’t have to do this anymore. I think my opponent may have also sensed this as well and the discussion evolved into something civil. We both reluctantly agreed there was no need to carry over the bitterness of the last three years. It was something that was hard to accept in a way, because there had been so much bitter acrimony which remains to this day. But really I have my team back so why carry on with the old grudges? Phoenix will either find its support or it won’t, they are not the old Jets anymore, they are simply the Coyotes now.
So with all of that behind us, we all need something to feel good about, and the rookie tournament seems to fit the bill nicely with a showcase of up and coming stars. Of course all eyes will be on the first round pick Mark Schiefel who received a nice round of applause at rookie camp last week. Word is that he's serious about cracking the pro line up and his development arc is still climbing steadily. Even though Mark is saying he wants to crack the line up this year, I’m almost positive it would be a mistake to bring him up for any length of time. Personally I'll be looking at Zach Yuen, of whom I have high hopes. By all accounts he's a well developed all around person that excels at most of the things he does, which includes stopping opposing forwards, and holding down the point. He's a smart shutdown guy that has crazy plus minus numbers in tri-cities. The one thing he needs is size, and hopefully Mother Nature along with a harsh workout regiment will help him with that. I’m looking forward to getting back to "business as usual" from a fan perspective and seeing these young guys in action will help in getting us ready for the big show.
So in more ways than one this fall will be a renewal,a new start for Jets and hockey fans everywhere. The young guns will kick it off and then the pros will come together next week to start their camp in a prelude to the exhibition play and then ultimately the start of a new campaign. Hopefully we can leave the events of this summer and the past few years behind and focus on the game. It certainly will be fun to beat the Oilers again and the Coyotes for the first time. Let’s play hockey!