The performances of the other teams are observed and considered only when the other teams face this great Canadian trinity. The feats of Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Connor Hellebuyck remain on the dark side of the Moon. They only deserve a bit of news when the team faces one of the country’s big clubs.
The Winnipeg Jets are therefore preparing to fight a much bigger fight than the one that awaits them on the ice: that of public opinion.
Year after year, the team is shunned by analysts and punters (Pooleur). Still, the team have made the playoffs four straight years (including the bizarre 2020 prelims).
Twice out of four she has passed the first round. The 2018 playoffs were particularly hot, with the team defeating the 2017 Stanley Cup finalists, the Nashville Predators. She made it to the western final.
Paul Maurice’s club is eating up places in the standings year after year and nitpicking the best thanks to the master passer, captain Blake Wheeler (more than 800 career points), on the wall, goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck (winner of the Vézina trophy in 2020 and who has a .950 save efficiency rate in the series this year), and a host of talented forwards.
Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice
Photo : Getty Images / Marianne Helm
The blue line was abused by the injuries and departures of Byfuglien, Myers, Trouba and a certain Ben Chiarot two years ago, may it have been able to prove that it was worth that of the other clubs in spite of everything!
Still, the majority of commentators didn’t even see the Jets in the playoffs this year, let alone pass the Oilers at the finish line (which was done in four games, too).
But in Winnipeg, year after year fans see a damn good hockey club built. The recipe is simple. Team principal Kevin Cheveldayoff (a former Chicago Blackhawks who won three Stanley Cups between 2010 and 2015) is betting on stability, draft and player development.
But when we talk about this team elsewhere in the country: radio silence. Winnipeg Jets or obscure Siberian KHL formation? Same fight. I’m hardly exaggerating.
Part of the problem is geography. The Leafs and the Canadiens play in big Canadian cities where sports networks are well established. Jets fans outnumber Canadians, it’s true. You rarely see a Jets jersey crossing the borders of Manitoba, unlike those of the Canadiens, the Bruins or the Leafs … But they are there.
This series is more than hockey. It is a city, a province, which is experiencing great difficulties, both in terms of the pandemic and of poverty.
White tide in downtown Winnipeg during the 2018 hockey playoffs.
Photo: Radio-Canada / Camille Gris Roy
The Jets are more than a hockey team. It is a statement that Manitobans exist, prosper and are proud. That there is life outside of Montreal and Toronto. The white tides, a tradition of the serial team, prove it.
The Jets fans may be fewer… but they are by far the better fans. And they are right to be proud.
Jets in 5.