The time has finally come. After a long summer for players, staff and fans, the Winnipeg Jets officially kicked off training camp first thing Saturday morning. Hundreds of hockey enthusiasts packed the MTS Iceplex bright and early to cheer on their new team. GO JETS GO! chants echoed throughout the small practice facility creating an intense goosebump atmosphere.
"We're obviously not used to practicing in front of a crowd like that," said Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian."It's great that the fans are excited and we're excited, it's a good day today in Winnipeg."
Three groups of 20 players will participate in an hour and a half on-ice training session followed by a half hour off-ice workout. Players are tested in several different areas during the 90 minute session such as shooting, skating, speed, strength and hockey sense.
All three groups are made up of rookies and veterans to spread out the talent and give the coaches and management the chance to watch a variety of skill levels.
"It feels good," Enstrom said about the warm fan welcome. "I come from a town back home where everybody lives for hockey and it's pretty much the same over here. I am really excited for this season coming up."
"I can definitely feel the energy of the city," said Kane. "A lot of the players are going pretty hard out there, it was a good first practice. It's good to get used to the fans and see what they've been waiting for the whole summer."
"You can feel it, I've felt it for the last three weeks," Mason said of the energy and excitement. "To get on the ice, this is what we've all been waiting for."
"It's good to get started finally," said Wheeler. "I think we've been itching for this ever since the move occurred. I think everyone was excited to finally get on the ice in front of these people and be a part of this organization. The fans here have been waiting for some time. We've been waiting a little bit of a shorter time since we heard of the move but the people here have been waiting for many many years to see this again so it was a pretty special day."
After a long first day of training camp and several hours on the ice for the coaching staff, the Jets will rest up and get back at it tomorrow morning to do it all over again at the MTS Centre. All three groups will skate again starting at 9:00a.m. The remainder of the Jets' training camp will be closed to the public.
The Jets' first exhibition game is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20th at 7:30 p.m at the MTS Centre. The Jets' roster will be split into two teams with one half staying in Winnipeg to take on half of the Columbus Blue Jackets while the other half will travel to Columbus to take on the Jackets second squad.