Jets fans 'blow the roof' at pre-season game

Winnipeg hockey fans are buzzing with excitement as the Jets began their first NHL game in the city in 15 years.
Winnipeg Jets fans pack the MTS Centre as the team faced off in its first pre-season home game Tuesday evening. (Nico Wlock/CBC)

Winnipeg hockey fans are buzzing with excitement as the Jets began their first NHL game in the city in 15 years.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m. CT, in front of a packed house at the MTS Centre, the puck dropped in Winnipeg's first NHL game since the 1995-1996 season, when the Jets packed up and went south to Phoenix to become the Coyotes.

Some people around the city, on radio stations and in offices on Tuesday have been wishing one another a Merry Jets-mas.

"I've been waiting for … 15 years. I think I was 12 years old the last time I went to a Jets game and I can't wait to go," said one fan picking up Jets gear at a sports retailer.

"Even my new bride is coming."

"He's been more excited about this than the wedding," his wife offered.

Added another fan: "I think it's awesome. Like, yeah. It sucked that we lost them in '96 but that's awesome that they're coming back."

"When they come into that arena I think we're just going to blow the roof on that and it's gonna, it's gonna lead our team to victory just having the fans get behind the team so, so much," said another.

Assistant general manager Craig Heisinger likes the fan pressure and agrees it can elevate a team's play.

"I think that's a real positive. And I actually believe the biggest asset this team has is the city and the province itself," he said.

Jets Captain Andrew Ladd said players are anticipating a lot from the fans.

"I'm assuming it's going to be crazy in here. I think it's kind of the fans' first opportunity to show what they bring to the table and the excitement that they have for this team," he said.

"So it should be fun."

And this is all just for a pre-season game — and only part of the team.

The team is playing a split-squad home-and-away affair against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That means part of the team will play a sampling of the Blue Jackets at Winnipeg's MTS Centre, while another version of the two teams play in Columbus at the same time.

The Jets play five more pre-season games before kicking off the regular season at home against the venerable Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Atlanta to Winnipeg

In May 2011, Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment bought the Atlanta Thrashers and announced it was bringing the team to Winnipeg.

In June, True North announced the team would once again be called the Jets.

That same month, the team reached its goal of selling 13,000 season tickets 17 minutes after they went on sale to the general public.

Organizers said later that the online queue for purchasing tickets was actually full in two minutes, with the remaining 15 minutes required to process the sales.