Thunder Bay

Go Jets Go: Northwestern Ontario fans show support for Winnipeg Jets

In the northwestern Ontario city of Kenora, just a two-hour drive from Winnipeg, Jets fans aren't shy about showing their support.

Kenora, Ont., hockey fan Dave McNeill sports a Winnipeg Jets flag. (Danial McNeill)

It makes sense that Kenora, Ont. would be home to some serious Jets fans. 

After all, the northwestern Ontario city is only about a two hour drive from Winnipeg. 

For lifelong fans like Dave McNeill, who flies a Jets flag in his front yard, and sports a Jets tire cover on the back of his Jeep, that's a small distance to travel to be part of the excitement.

"It's just absolutely amazing," he said, describing what it's been like when he's caught games in Winnipeg. 

"The atmosphere is just so overwhelming. Everybody's so excited. There's such a big passion for hockey in Winnipeg and the surrounding area."

McNeill, who followed the Jets in their first incarnation, and celebrated the team's return several years ago, it's been thrilling to watch the team come so far this season. 

"I guess with the Jets having gone and come back, it's a little bit more of a special story for them," he said, adding that he hopes to catch game 5 between the Jets and the Golden Knights in Winnipeg on Sunday, or at least to be part of the whiteout street party.

'A lot of superfans'

McNeill isn't the only Kenora resident who's flying high over the Jets playoff run. 

"There's a lot of superfans in Kenora," said Al Wald, adding that the enthusiasm is evident in the town. 

Some businesses are showing their support with signs, and fans are finding other ways to celebrate. At his youngest son's hockey banquet, "our theme for our table was Winnipeg whiteout," he said, "it's pretty neat."

Although the Jets are currently lagging behind the Golden Knights, Wald said he has confidence in his team to turn things around. 

"They've done such a good job of building the team over a period of time," he said.

Shows of support around town

"When we heard they might be coming back in 2011, we all piled into the car, took the day off, and drove up to Winnipeg to the Forks for the big announcement," said Jaret Ring, who grew up in Winnipeg, but now lives in Kenora.

"So that was a huge day. And then we've been season ticket holders ever since."

He and his wife, Candice Ring, who share their season tickets with family, said if the contest with the Knights goes to game 7, they'll be there.

When they can't make it to games, they have others over to their house to watch, said Candice Ring, adding that she's also getting into the spirit at her workplace, the Kenora library, where she's created a whiteout book display.

She said it's not uncommon to see vehicles driving around the city, sporting Jets flags.

"Kenora's right into it," she said.