Manitoba

Winnipegger who came up with Jets Whiteout bursting with pride

Rod Palson says in the 1980s the Winnipeg Jets needed some way to counter act the Calgary Flames and their "Sea of Red". He says it started with a complex idea of wearing white, red and blue but Palson suggested white because everyone has something white in their closet.

Rod Palson says it was as simple idea that looks as good today as it did in the 80's

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      Another Whiteout is coming to the MTS Centre Wednesday night as the Winnipeg Jets take on the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the man who created the tradition says he's proud to see it continue.

      "People react positively to cool ideas. The Whiteout was a cool idea because people jumped all over it. It was cool then, and it's cool now. It's cooler now than it ever was," Rod Palson said.

      In 1987 Palson was a partner and creative director at Palmer Jarvis Communications, the company that did advertising for the Winnipeg Jets.

      "The Whiteout was absolutely unique, it just looked classy, it looked clean, it sparkles.- Rod Palson

      At that point the Jets were up against the Calgary Flames in the first round of the NHL playoffs, and the team was looking for something to compete with Calgary's Sea of Red.

      One idea had fans wearing white, red and blue, the Jets colours, but Palson said that was too complicated.
      Rod Palson was in marketing in the 1987 can came up with the concept of the Winnipeg White Out. He says it was as simple as sending out a media release asking fans to wear a clean, white t-shirt, and it took off. (Rod Palson)

      "Back in those days the whole concept of fans wearing jerseys wasn't even heard of. I mean at that time, I don't even think could go and buy those jerseys," Palson said

      He says it wasn't as simple as going out to a store, picking up a jersey and wearing it.

      Over the course of a lunch meeting, Palson hatched the idea.

      "We need something that is simple, that has a very quick turn around because we had less than a week to make it all happen and you know, I just said, really, most people have an article of clothing that is white in colour at home, they don't have to go out and buy anything, they should be able to participate simply by putting on a clean, white T-shirt and coming down to the rink, and low and behold, it stuck," Palson said.

      He says as he was driving to the arena that night he hoped his family wouldn't be the only ones wearing white. 

      "As soon as we got out of the car in the parking lot I thought 'oh man this is happening, this is really working,'" he said. 

      Jets fans embrace the White Out in many forms. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
      And Palson thinks it looked much better than the Sea of Red in Calgary, which at a distance, he said even now, looks like empty seats.

      "It doesn't make a statement like the Whiteout. I mean the Whiteout was absolutely unique, it just looked classy, it looked clean, it sparkles. It's just a class statement and, you know, today, it looks even better than ever," Palson said. 

      This week, after so many years, Palson was in the stands with his son to watch the revival of the Whiteout, he said it's something that can never be duplicated in any other city, even Phoenix, where the original Jets went after leaving Winnipeg.

      ​Palson says the Whiteout isn't something he started. 

      "If the community hadn't have bought in all of those years ago we wouldn't be talking about it today. and it's happening because we have the best fans in hockey." 

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