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Late Jets fan being honored in traveling jersey tribute

Friend arranges for it to visit all 31 NHL arenas with help from across League

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

A special Winnipeg Jets jersey was part of an equally special photo at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 6, when the Dallas Stars played the Vegas Golden Knights in the season opener for each.

That jersey, with the No. 10 and "Carter'' on the back, was part of the same type of photo at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg for the Winnipeg Jets' opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 4 and has been going all over the NHL ever since. Its most recent stops came at Amalie Arena for the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa on Jan. 27 and Scotiabank Saddle Down in Calgary on Jan. 21. Before the season is over, the jersey is expected to get to all 31 NHL arenas as a way for Graeme Fortlage to remember his friend and fellow Jets fan, Carter Jansen, who was killed in an automobile accident at age 21 on May 19, 2016.

Fortlage, 24, initially had a hard time coming up with a way to honor his friend, who never attended an NHL game.

"Nothing really ever seemed to fit or be the right sort of memorial," said Fortlage, who had the jersey made after Jansen died. "Then I had the idea of taking his jersey to a couple Jets games, and then that expanded to maybe taking it to every arena in the NHL over a couple years."

To do so, Fortlage has enlisted fans from around the League to help.

Following the game in Winnipeg, Fortlage shipped the jersey overnight via FedEx to Kimberly Matthews, who drove from Nashville to Texas for the Stars' home opener.

"It's something I had to do," Matthews said. "As hockey fans we all have our rivalries, but in the end I think we're all a big family. To be able to help with this and make this possible, it means a lot."

Fortlage and Jansen met in 2008 while playing Xbox Live remotely. Living about nine hours apart by car, they met in person once but often discussed and debated the Jets. When Jansen made plans to enroll at the University of Regina, three hours closer to Winnipeg, the friends worked out a plan for him to attend the Jets' season opener at home with Fortlage in October.

After Jansen's death, Fortlage decided he would find a way to honor his friend's wish and started discussing the idea with other hockey fans in a Facebook group. That's when Matthews, a Stars fan who recently relocated to Nashville, suggested that, with help, he could get the jersey to all 31 arenas in one season. Some fans are handling the jersey at multiple arenas.

"It's grown exponentially with nonstop momentum since then," Fortlage said. "The outreach and help from fans across the League has been incredible. I couldn't have imagined this when I had the initial idea."

Before each game, the fan carrying the jersey that day will take a picture of the jersey draped over his or her seat, making sure to frame Carter's name and the ice in the shot.

After the jersey made its appearance in Dallas, it was sent to Jason Shaylock, who brought it to GM Place in Vancouver on Oct. 12 for a game between the Canucks and Jets. On Oct. 26, Richard Moser had the jersey at PPG Paints Arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2-1 overtime win against the Jets. In the third period, Moser handed the jersey off to Jamie Thomas, who works for the Jets website. Thomas took the jersey to Columbus and got it to Stephen Lukan, who brought it to Nationwide Arena in Columbus for the Blue Jackets' 2-1 overtime win against the Jets the next night. On Nov. 11, Cat Silverman was at Gila River Arena in Phoenix for the Jets' 4-1 win against the Coyotes.

Video: Carter Jansen's jersey makes it's way to Florida

Fortlage and Matthews not only had the jersey in Nashville on Nov. 20, a group of Predators fans posed in the photo with them. Fortlage said the fans shuffled him around Bridgestone Arena, "so eveyone could be a part of it." 

Matthews then took the jersey to St. Louis for the Blues' 2-0 loss against the Predators on Nov. 24. In St. Louis, Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo and Blues legend Bobby Plager signed the jersey. A local TV station did a feature on the jersey and Matthews and Fox Sports Midwest did an in-game report that was shown on the video board.

"I was incredibly impressed with all the Blues did for this trip," Matthews told  "They went over and above to make this jersey stop special. I cannot praise that organization enough." 

Doug Poole had the jersey for the first time, and took it with his son to Pepsi Center in Denver for the Jets' game against the Colorado Avalanche. In Detroit, Madison Vanantwerp had the jersey, which was signed by Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. Ashlee Proefke had it at BB&T Center for the Panthers' 6-4 win against the Jets. On Dec. 9. Proefke had the jersey at the Jets' game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and had a photo taken with Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. When she took it to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to the the Golden Knights' win against the Lightning, Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury posed for a photo. Two days later, it was in Boston with Shukri Wrigths, for the Bruins' 2-1 shootwin win against the Jets. Two days before Christmas, Helen Yoon had the jersey at Barclays Center for the Islanders 5-2 win against the Jets. On Dec. 31, Art Middleton and Dan Ronald had the jersey was at Rogers Arena for the Jets' 5-0 win against the Oilers. On Jan. 9, Trevor Lock and his girlfriend, Rebecca Ryan, had the jersey in Buffalo for the Jets' 7-4 against the Jets. On Jan. 13, Jason Rynders, Natalie Leach and Josh Odle brought the jersey to Xcel Energy Center for the Minnesota Wild's 4-1 win over the Jets.

On Jan. 21, Fortlage had the jersey himself in Calgary, where he met Jansen's parents for the first time. Adrian D'Souza had the jersey in Tampa for All-Star weekend. Matthews had the jersey in Toronto on Feb. 7. She brought it to the Hockey Hall of Fame and took a photo from Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly. The next night, Matthews had the jersey in Ottawa, where it was signed by Senators defenseman Mark Stone.

"It's so special getting to come to Toronto as part of the tour and take the jersey around to the Air Canada Centre and then to the Hall of Fame," Matthews said. "It's been really, really awesome to see all the different fans come together and it's a very humbling feeling when you bring the jersey into the arena and have so many people who know about it already and wanting to be a part of it. It's a pretty amazing feeling and getting to see his family's reaction to all of this has been quite amazing."

Mattews also had an incredible visit to Montreal on Feb. 10. She not only did a radio spot with TSN, she also had a photo taken of her and the jersey with Canadiens greats Stephane Richer, Yvan Cournoyer and Réjean Houle.

Since the Montreal trip, the jersey was at PNC Arena for a Carolina Hurricanes game against the Jets on March 4, at Madison Square Garden for a New York Rangers game against the Jets on March 6, at Prudential Center for a New Jersey Devils' game against the Jets on March 8 and at Wells Fargo Center for the Philadelphia Flyers game against the Jets on March 10. 

Fortlage took the first picture on Oct. 4, and the Jets gave him a tour of Bell MTS Place with the jersey. The rest is up to a legion of fans, starting with the expedited shipment of the jersey from Manitoba to Texas.

"I think it's the most expensive leg of the trip," Fortlage said. "After that we have a bit more time before each game."

Fortlage said he hopes to get the jersey back to Winnipeg before the season ends with the help of the Jets.

"The Jets have been incredible about this," Fortlage said. "The jersey has its final stop [in Los Angeles] on April 7 (when the Los Angeles Kings play the Stars). After that they said they would have me back either this season or next season so Carter could complete the journey."

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