WINNIPEG -- Crowds have flocked to The Forks, Winnipeg's downtown gathering spot along the banks of the Red River.
The 2011 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off is the draw for the crowd, estimated to be anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 fans, ready to mark the start of the 2011-12 NHL season -- and the return to the NHL to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence. The Jets play their first game against Montreal on Sunday.
Windy but sunny and unseasonably warm weather is providing a further lure to Winnipeggers ready to mark the city's return to the NHL via the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL Network, Canadian Tire, EA Sports, Molson Canadian, Reebok, Scotiabank, Visa and XM all have booths on site.
Also providing entertainment is local band Inward Eye. Later in the evening, platinum-selling rock band Three Days Grace will play before Bachman & Turner cap the evening.
Fans will also have a chance to meet Jets captain Andrew Ladd and teammates Zach Bogosian, Tanner Glass and Mark Stuart, along with CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos. Tonight's Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs game is set to air on giant video boards.