15 years of anticipation comes to a conclusion on Sunday night at MTS Centre when 15,004 individuals will be bonded together in uncontrollable excitement.
On April 28, 1996, Winnipeg never imagined this day would arrive. The final game for the Winnipeg Jets before relocating to Phoenix was an emotional affair, marking the hopeless demise of the NHL in our city. At that time, there was no hope; only the most radical optimists believed that it was merely an end of an era, not an end of NHL hockey.
The NHL was gone, but the passion for hockey would never leave our city. In 1996 he Manitoba Moose stepped in to fill the void left by the Jets. Playing first the International Hockey League, then later in the American Hockey League, times were not always easy, especially at first. With hard work, determination, and a little success, the Moose grew to hold a place in the hearts of Manitoba hockey fans, being a valued part of our community for 15 years.
Then the rumors began; rumblings that things weren’t so sunny in the Sunbelt, and in the last few years, a glimmer of hope where previously there was none.
It was only at the last moment when our gaze turned to Atlanta, an NHL franchise in need of help if there ever was one. Sure there were some fans, but as we have learned, a successful pro sports franchise needs more than just fan support.
A deal with Atlanta’s ownership and the National Hockey League came together in the final moments, and finalized with hours to spare. It was on May 31, 2011 that the rumors became truth, and hope became reality.
"Today, on behalf of my family, our partner David Thomson, and our entire organization, I am excited beyond words to announce our purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers. In a sense I guess you could say that True North, our city and our province has received the call we have long since been waiting for." - Mark Chipman
Behind the scenes, it was an unbelievably quick summer. There were less than 100 days from when the purchase was announced, to when a team needed to be on the ice. Endless hours putting plans in place, making changes to the arena, the organization, finalizing logos and jerseys, and everything else that goes into getting an NHL team on the ice.
In three preseason games at MTS Centre, we have seen the beginning of what the NHL means to Winnipeg, and on Sunday afternoon, the roof will surely come off the MTS Centre as 15 years of anticipation and emotion is released by our community.