Back in 1995 I was waiting at the corner of Portage & Main with my brother and thousands of others …waiting for the powers that be from the City of Winnipeg, The Province of Manitoba and local business leaders to come down from the Richardson Building where they were meeting to announce that the “Save the Jets” campaign was successful and Winnipeg was keeping their hockey team. We waited, and waited and waited. Slowly the crowd left over the next few hours – still not a peep out of the loudspeakers set up for the announcement. That announcement never came, and we all know what happened and what it did to the city of Winnipeg’s self worth. So THIS time I said I needed to be at that Press Conference – as I’ve waited 16 years for it. So I got myself into the MTS Centre with the Media and though there was no more room in the small official press conference room, I was granted permission to be part of the media scrum when the key players were being interview directly after the official announcement. So myself and several other of the overflow media watched the press conference right next door, in the Visitors Dressing room at the MTS Centre. After the official announcement was complete, all the media went to the official scrum area where each of the key players (minus the private Mr. David Thomson) each answered questions from the media for 20-30 minutes per. Afterwards I went down to the Forks to catch a little of the celebrations going on there.
This was something I did for me. Growing up I was a Diehard Winnipeg Jets fan! Only making it to a few games a year….but I remember religiously watching every Jet game on TV and listening to non-televised games on the radio. Putting on my Jets Jersey (of course worn to school on Game days!), bringing out my Jets pucks….getting already for the game. I remember one January when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It was super cold outside and the windows were all frosted and I remember lying down on my parents bed so I could listen to a game with the Minnesota North Stars on my Dad’s radio alarm clock. Let’s just some thing up by saying the Winnipeg Jets were a huge part of my youth and I did what I could to support (both emotionally AND financially!) the “Save the Jets” campaign back in 1995. The one public figure who describes best what Winnipeg felt when the Jets left is Mayor Sam Katz. His description of someone reaching into your ribs and pulling out your heart is right on the money. It was exactly like being dumped by someone you love. Being “jilted” by the NHL was one heartache that didn’t really go away that much with time. Because of all this, I personally needed to be at the press conference to hear the words that the NHL (hopefully the Jets) are back. Being maybe 6 feet from Gary Bettman (ESPECIALLY him!), Mark Chipman, Greg Selinger & Sam Katz when they spoke about Winnipeg getting back into the NHL was what was needed for me to start to get over the loss I felt when the Jets left….and being left at Portage and Main to widdle in the wind because nobody had the guts to come down and face a crowd of thousands to say “we failed”.
Thank you Mr. Chipman, Mr. Thomson and (I’m having a hard time believing I’m actually saying this…) Mr. BETTMAN for bringing back NHL hockey to Winnipeg and righting a wrong that should never have happened in the first place!
Here’s what I photographed.