The day had finally come for the Winnipeg Jets organization and the entire city of Winnipeg. Jets hockey was back at the MTS Centre for the first time in a long time.
15,004 electric fans packed into the sold out MTS Centre Tuesday night to cheer on their new Jets. Chilling "Go Jets Go" chants filled the arena quickly as the young team took to the ice for warm up.
Yes, this was a pre-season game, but not just any pre-season game. This was the first time hockey fans had seen Jets jerseys step out onto the ice in 15 years. The NHL was back in this hockey crazed city.
The fans were buzzing with energy and the players picked up on it in a hurry.
“It was a blast to be a part of that,” said Jets captain, Andrew Ladd. “To see the atmosphere and the crowd before the game was really exciting. It was great to get a good result too.”
Dustin Byfuglien set the tone early for the Jets with two huge hits and a fight on the first shift of the game. If that wasn't enough, Mark Stuart decided to join in the fun picking a scrap with Dane Byers along side Byfuglien. It took under a minute to get this crowd behind the new team.
“The fans wanted something to get going and the hit was there and that’s how we get it going, and guess that’s how we’ve come to Winnipeg,” smiled Byfuglien. “It was a good way to start the season and get the fans going with us.”
“It’s always nice to have a full crowd again, it’s a seventh man out there." he added.
Paul Postma picked up the first goal for the reborn Jets later in the opening frame as Andrew Ladd provided a very helpful screen in front of the Jackets goaltender Curtis Sanford. The former Calgary Hitmen star, went on to have a four-point outing in his first pre-season game.
“We wanted to come out and give the fans a good night and a good game,” said Postma. “We definitely built off of their energy and we had a good team game all together.”
Later, at the 16:50 marker of the first period, Jets' first pick Mark Scheifele picked up his first ever professional goal giving the Jets the 2-0 lead. Scheifele jumped on a juicy rebound and made no mistake finding the back of the net bringing every fan in the building to their feet.
Scheifele wasn't done there. He snapped his second goal of the night at the midway marker of the third period feeding the building more energy. "Scheifele" chants filled the arena after his sly power play goal creating a wave around the MTS Centre. The 18-year old could hardly hold in his excitement as he skated back to the bench. He just sat and watched in awe. He too went on to a dominating four-point game.
“It was unreal,” said Scheifele about the fan chants. “To hear that, I’ve never had that happen in my life. I tried to keep the grin in on the bench but it kept popping out.”
“Scheiff, welcome to the NHL, wow, that kid was amazing,” Byfuglien said about Scheifele’s play.
Jets Head Coach Claude Noel addressed the media after the game and had nothing but great things to say about the play of the young talent.
"I think he played with tremendous poise, he looked like the best player on the ice to be honest with you," said Noel. "He looked like a guy who was a veteran guy. He played big and smart, clever, and was around pucks. What can you say? We know it's only four days in but I can't argue, he's doing the right things. The things that he needs to do to stay."
The Jets went on to a convincing 6-1 victory over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets split-squad team for the pre-season opener on Tuesday night at the MTS Centre. The team will continue practicing Wednesday through Friday when half of the team will head to Nashville to play the Predators and half will travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jets next pre-season home game is scheduled for Wednesday, September 28th at 7:30 pm against the Carolina Hurricanes. The game will be broadcast on TSN and TSN-Jets