Cheers spill from Bell MTS Place into Winnipeg streets as Jets cage Predators in Nashville

Their team was 2,000 kilometres away but Jets fans' cheers filled the Bell MTS Place as if the players were on the ice Friday night when Winnipeg got its first-ever second-round NHL playoff win in Game 1 in Nashville.

Fans fill Bell MTS Place to watch Game 1 from Nashville, but destroy car first to send message to Preds fans

Blair Mensforth (left) celebrates with family and friends after watching the Jets take down the Predators on the scoreboard at Bell MTS Place. Game 1 of the second-round series was played in Nashville. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Their team was 2,000 kilometres away but Jets fans' cheers filled the Bell MTS Place as if the players were on the ice Friday night when Winnipeg got its first-ever second-round NHL playoff win in Game 1 in Nashville. 

And as diehard as they are, one pattern that seemed to emerge as fans streamed out of the arena was a sense of surprise at the score.

"It was pretty unreal, I don't know if anyone expected us to walk away with a 4-1 victory in the opening game, but what a party inside" Blair Mensforth said outside Bell MTS Place as fans walked by on the sidewalk shouting "Go Jets Go."

"When is the last time you see a team put almost 50 shots on the opposing team's netminder, and then have to pull their own goaltender with minutes left to go? You just don't expect that."

Thousands watched on the scoreboard in Bell MTS Place as the Jets won in a packed Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The Predators' out-shot the Jets and their lone goal ended Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck's 163-minute playoff shutout streak, but it was no match for goals from Brandon Tanev, Paul Stasny and Mark Scheifele, including an empty-netter late in the third period to seal the deal.

Jets fans of all ages were getting rowdy on their way into the game. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Winnipeg hasn't won a second-round playoff game since it was part of the World Hockey Association in 1979. The previous incarnation of the NHL Jets made it to the second-round twice but got swept each time by the Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers in 1985 and 1987.

True North Sports & Entertainment invited fans indoors to watch Game 1 after a series of successful street parties downtown in the first round against Minnesota. The Jets ousted the Wild in five games to set up their series against Nashville in the second round.

Justin Lyons (left) and Jen Enns (second from right) say they expected more from the Predators in Game 1. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Justin Lyons said the atmosphere in Bell MTS Place was pretty close to as electric as it's been for home games this playoff season.

"I thought it'd be a lot closer to be honest, but the Jets came out and they dominated," Lyons said, adding he's attended all the whiteout street parties thus far.

"Everything was white … lot of energy, lot of noise," said Jen Enns. "Game 1 I thought was going to be tougher than it was."

Chad Gilbert says he had the costume kicking around, so why not throw it on and fit in with the rest of costume-wearing Jets fans. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Chad Gilbert showed up to watch in a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume.

"The fever is on, the city is going crazy over this," Gilbert said calmly while heading into the arena to watch the game. "Hands down, I promise a win tonight."

In the hours before game time a series of committed fans took bats and sledgehammers to a Dodge Caliber emblazoned with Predator logos.

A man bashes the bumper off a car covered in Predators logos outside Carbone Coal Fire Pizza in Winnipeg ahead of Game 1 in Nashville between the Jets and Predators. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Carbone Coal Fired Pizza organized the event — a take on a long-standing Predators tradition — outside the restaurant on St. Mary Avenue, and the car was donated by Vikar Chevrolet.

On Wednesday, Nashville fans wheeled a small plane outside Bridgestone Arena and destroyed it, so Carbone co-owner Benjamin Nasberg wanted to give Jets fans a chance to clapback.

"It's only fair if we do something similar here," Nasberg said.

Participants paid $5 to raise funds for KidSport Winnipeg — and to send a message to "Smashville" fans watching 2,000 kilometres to the south.

"I just broke the Nashville car, I feel pretty good about it," said Kyra Winfield, said after destroying a headlight and denting the hood of the car with a sledgehammer. "Nashville is going to get a run for their money."

Kyra Winfield takes a whack. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Brennan Easton, 13, his sister Morgan Easton, 4, and friend Levi Stark were all looking forward to seeing Winnipeg womp Nashville from afar.

Brennan's prediction was Jets heavy-hitters were going to lay down a bruising on the Preds in Game 1.

"Hopefully they'll injure some of the Nashville players to get them out so we can win Round 2," he said.

Morgan Easton, 4, Levi Stark, 14, and Brennan Easton, 13, head into Bell MTS Place before Game 1. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Stark paused thoughtfully for a moment before saying he thinks the Jets will take the series in five games.

"I think it's going to be a pretty close series score-wise," he said. "I just feel like the teams are more evenly matched than our last series."

Morgan stayed out of wild speculations, but Jets fan Derrick Cochrane made his before heading in to the arena to watch the game.

Derrick Cochrane said he expected Bell MTS Place would get loud during the game as fans watched on big screens. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

"I predict it's going to be a tough series but I think we should go against the best team right away," he said.

For Jets fans who didn't get a chance to make an impression or two on that beat up car, Carbone will wheel the car out for bashing ahead of every home and away game for the rest of the series, Nasberg said.

Winnipeg and Nashville face off in Game 2 Sunday at 6 p.m. CT.

Fans drive by Bell MTS Place in a car decked out in Jets gear Friday night. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform Manitoba journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC.