Thousands of Winnipeg Jets fans and others flooded into the city's historic Forks area on Thursday for the 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off bash.

The popular, season-opening hockey and entertainment festival features live music, interactive attractions, food and beverage stands and merchandise tents as well as live inserts on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada pre-game show.

Brian Jennings, the NHL's vice president of marketing, said he has been captivated by the energy of Winnipeggers celebrating the return of the Jets.

"What I've been amazed at is really the people of Winnipeg, you know the culture and everybody. They say how nice everybody is and really the reception here has been nothing short of extraordinary," he said.

And the weather has also been extrodinary. Jennings noted temperatures of 31 C on Wednesday and 28 C being forecast for Thursday.

It puts the icing on the cake for the event, which he said was eight months in the making.

Ron McLean, host of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, believes Jets fans will have a lot to cheer about in their inaugural season.

He thinks the defensive corps is strong and there are a lot of promising players.

"I do think they'll make the playoffs, riding a little bit of the emotion of the fans, too," he said.

Party rockers

Highlighting the party will be musical performances from Winnipeg-based Inward Eye, rock legends Randy Bachman and Fred Turner and platinum-selling alt-metal band Three Days Grace — with all three sets streamed live at

Inward Eye takes the stage at 4:30 p.m. ET, followed by Bachman and Turner at 6 p.m. ET and Three Days Grace performing a set at 6:55 p.m. ET — at the top of Hockey Night In Canada's national broadcast of the Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs.

CBC fan favourite and festival host George Stroumboulopoulos (@strombo) will be tweeting from The Forks with celebrity hockey fans wearing their favourite team sweaters #NHLFaceoff.