'We're a total Jets family': As NHL playoffs begin, step into a Winnipeg superfan's shrine

Nearly every square inch of Greg Burnett's Winnipeg home is adorned in the red, blue and white of his hometown Jets.

Light fixtures, stools, blankets and old Winnipeg Arena signs fill Greg Burnett's home

Greg Burnett sits in front of his locker room full of signed jerseys, all from the first iteration of the Winnipeg Jets franchise. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Nearly every square inch of Greg Burnett's Winnipeg home is adorned in the red, blue and white of his hometown Jets.

The basement of his house displays a collection of Jets memorabilia that might overwhelm some — but for Burnett, it represents a place of solace.

"This is the one place I can be comfortable," he said.

Since the return of the Jets to Winnipeg in 2011, the eight months of the NHL season have been a major part of Burnett's life.

"I'm always aware of when the Jets play. My mind's always working out a way, if something comes up on a [game] night — 'How can I finagle out of this?" he said.

Since the team's return, Burnett, a teacher, has only missed watching three games out of a total of 643 in real time.

Since the Jets franchise returned to Winnipeg, Burnett says he's only missed three games. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

That total is about to rise, as the Jets begin their post-season Wednesday night with a home game against the St. Louis Blues.

A season-ticket holder, Burnett attends all the home games. When he's watching on TV, he's particular about his routine.

"Between commercials and intermissions I do the laundry as I sit in my chair," he said. "I'm very anti-social when the game's on."

And when he's watching, don't bother talking to him.

"I can't enjoy a game unless I'm focused on it.… I'm incapable of carrying on a conversation while the Jets are on in front of me."

If anyone comes over to his house during a game, "they need to come in pairs, or I'll call my wife down to chat with him."

The shrine

Visitors who descend to basement where he watches road games will spot everything from an "A" from the old Winnipeg Arena sign to pennant-style Jets banners.

Burnett's wife, Celia, swapped out regular light shades for ones with Winnipeg Jets scoreboards. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Walking down the steps, visitors are greeted by a wall of a dozen jerseys with the names of current and former players — and if they turn around, they find themselves standing in what Greg's wife, Celia, has dubbed "the shrine."

From light fixtures creatively adapted to mimic scoreboards to family photos where every member is wearing different jerseys to Jets bar stools and framed ticket stubs from all the home games Burnett has attended, there's nothing in "the shrine" that doesn't sport a team logo.

He's created makeshift lockers that house jerseys sporting the names of past Jets stars Anders Hedberg, Bobby Hull and Ulf Nilsson — better known as the the Hot Line. In another part of the basement hang jerseys with the names of Teemu Selanne and fellow Finnish player Teppo Numminen.

Burnett sits on a Winnipeg Jets stool in front of signed jerseys from the famous 'Hot Line.' (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

"Almost all of them are signed. I go up to them [at events] and the players are great," he said.

"Hedberg is my favourite player of all time — my wife got the jersey signed for me."

Burnett's passion isn't only on display in his basement — if you run into him, you'll immediately know he's a superfan, his wife says.

"Every piece of clothing he has … more or less has the Jets logo — shirts, pants, socks, runners, watch, hats, jackets and sweaters," said Celia Burnett.

"He hasn't worn anything without a logo for a really, really long time."

Family ties

Nobody understands Greg Burnett's passion for the Jets better than his partner of 26 years.

"You lose Greg for the whole hockey season — probably since the draft in June and so on," Celia said.

"We're a total Jets family at this point — 85 per cent of the family's schedule revolves around the Jets."

Celia Burnett says her husband never gave up on the Jets when the team left Winnipeg in 1996. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Even so, he's well aware of what comes first, Celia says.

"He knows his priorities. He knows where he has to be and that's with the family," she said.

"That's who he is and and we have a way of managing it. Sometimes I don't like it, but that's Greg, and he loves it."

She remembers what it was like for her husband when the Jets left Winnipeg in 1996 — and what it was like when they came back.

"Greg never gave up. He never once said they weren't coming back, and no matter what people said to him — 'you're crazy,' or … 'let it go, man' — he never did," Celia said.

"When it happened, it was just such a surreal experience and I was so thrilled for him."

Greg credits his passion for the Jets to his mother, who took him to Jets games.

"She knew that she had to keep me busy or I could find trouble," he said. "As soon as I went to my first game, I was immediately hooked."

A wall of Jets jerseys in Burnett's basement. He says nearly all his jerseys are signed. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Burnett now wants to pass down his love of the Winnipeg Jets to his four daughters, who — despite not having an NHL team in the city growing up —  are still ardent fans.

"I wanted to instill in them what it's like to love Winnipeg. We are Winnipeg, no matter what," he said.

Burnett knew that if his girls did eventually get to feel what it's like to have a hometown team, they'd be hooked.

"It just broke my heart that they weren't going to have the experiences as I kid that I had, because you can't create passions like that," he said.

"You can pick connections to other teams, but you can't create that."

'We're a total Jets family'

CBC News Manitoba

2 years ago
As NHL playoffs begin, step into a Winnipeg superfan's shrine. 2:49


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