The real king of white rinks is Winnipeg.
Most of the 15,000 fans at the old Winnipeg Arena, which now, by the way, is a parking lot, wore white to playoff games, and the effect was dazzling. I loved seeing this old rink full of white. Montreal didn’t do it, Toronto didn’t do it. Nobody was doing it. In the 1980’s, it was just Winnipeg.
I don’t know if the new MTS Centre, which seats 15,000 like the old rink, will be a whiteout for the Sunday afternoon home opener, but I’m hoping and expecting it will be when the Habs show up in the city that NHL hockey forgot. And although the Jets are back, whiteout or not, and regardless of the emotion, joy, and celebration on this day, I’m still hoping the Habs kick their ass.
Winnipeg can’t have everything. Hey, you got your team back. What, you want to beat the Habs too?
In the 17 years of the Jets’ NHL existence, 1979 to 1996, (they were a WHA team before that, beginning in 1972 with Bobby Hull as their matinee idol), their home opener record was 7 wins, 7 losses, and 3 ties. So we’ll see what column gets added to on Sunday.
And of course the team consists of last year’s Atlanta Thrashers, who are now citizens of the great but really cold Winnipeg, and it’s going to be neat for these guys to play to a packed house every home game, in hard-core hockey country. I remember a dismal night last year when the Habs visited Atlanta and only about 5000 people were there. The fans could’ve sat anywhere they wanted.
Who knows how the Jets will fare this year. Atlanta finished 25th of 30 teams in 2010-11, with just 80 points, so it seems the Stanley Cup probably won’t be paraded down Portage and Main in the near future.
A couple of final things about the old Winnipeg Arena before I call it a night. (it’s after midnight). It had a giant picture of Queen Elizabeth looking down on the action from one end, but it was removed at some point because it was, and I don’t know why this is a problem, blocking the view of some paying customers. People just need to find something to complain about sometimes.
I loved that picture. The Orillia rink had one when I was growing up, and I have a special place in my heart for giant pictures of the Queen in rinks. I don’t know why. Maybe its her nice smile.
The Winnipeg Arena was also the scene of game three of the 1972 Summit Series, a game which saw Valeri Kharlamov score shorthanded on a breakaway, and which ended in a 4-4 tie. I think at this point we knew Team Canada was in a bit of a pickle.
But enough about all that. Sunday is going to be a great day for Manitobans, and who better than the Montreal Canadiens to be the visitors for the home opener. Will it be a whiteout for this huge event? I hope so.