Monday, September 19, 2011

Will The Jets Live In Swaggerville?

An open letter to players

There’s something that you need to know. You’re not in Kansas anymore, or should I say Atlanta. You’re not pro athletes in a fringe sport played in front of 7000 people lured to the rink with free hot dogs. These people know you and they know the game.

These fans have been told by everyone in the hockey world to give up, it’s not happening. For fifteen years they kept working, hoping and dreaming. They kept going to pre season NHL games, world junior games, and Moose games. They rallied as a community to build an NHL calibre rink and practice facility. Still the world told them to give up, go home, and in the words of one particular TSN hockey insider “Be happy with the Manitoba Moose”.  They didn’t listen. These fans clawed their way back from hockey oblivion and spoke up with one voice that made the NHL and the hockey world listen.  When the last of the doubters challenged them to put their money where their mouth was, it happened quickly and without hesitation. On one day in June 248,000 Winnipeg hockey fans logged on to the computer to cast a minimum $5000.00 vote.  Now you have to remember this isn’t like other markets. Season tickets aren’t merely a corporate write off. Real people are making real sacrifices every day to make sure an NHL hockey club stays and thrives in Winnipeg.

So what does that mean to you as you put on a Winnipeg Jets jersey? It means you owe them.

You owe them not just good entertainment, not just an over 500 season, not just a first round play-off berth. You owe them the cup.  Ya, I said it, you owe them the hardest trophy in professional sport to earn. Why? Because they’ve put everything on the line just to give you the chance to compete for it, and because no fan in professional sport deserves a championship more than hockey fans in Winnipeg.

Think about it every time you lace them up. These fans do more than just pay your salary, they believe in you and they believe in the game. So ask yourself this; Are you man enough to play for these fans? We’ll find out.

An open letter to fans

Here we are, we have arrived. An NHL team called the Winnipeg Jets is skating in Manitoba once again, and as always the Manitoba hockey fan has gone the extra mile to show support. When 2000 people show up to a pre-season practice and drown out the coaches with Go-Jets-Go, you know this town is ready for a season of NHL hockey. There is however something to keep in mind, you deserve more than you got the last time around.

I keep hearing about a honeymoon period where expectations will be low in Winnipeg and the average hockey fan will be happy just to see an NHL club again. I would caution against this type of thinking. While it’s true we’re all grateful to see the club back on the ice again, we can’t let mediocrity creep back into our mindset like it did with the previous version of the Jets. How many of us remember always bracing for a loss but hoping for a win? How many times did we feel like making the playoffs was something to be thankful for?
Not this time. Personally, I want more. I want this club to be an elite club, where winning is expected and not just hoped for, where making the play-offs is a given, not a pleasant surprise. Now I know, technically we still need to build, I get that, but establishing how we go about our business is something that starts now. We need to establish swaggerville not just in the summer and fall, but all year round. This club needs to establish a dominance of character right from the start.

Now does that mean being a schizophrenic “trade em all” fan every time we lose and a “plan the parade” fan every time we win? No.  But what it does mean is giving our selves permission to dream big, it means letting ourselves want the cup.

So take it all in, enjoy the NHL once again, but keep in mind these players work for you. You are the ones who brought them back and you are the ones who will make sure they succeed. Keep pushing, keep wanting more and good things will happen.  As the season gets under way ask yourself this; will the Jets live in swaggerville?

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