Dave and Ezzy’s Top 10 Winnipeg Jets Home Games To Look Forward To This Season
With a possible National Hockey League-imposed Lockout looming next month (the NHL’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires September 15, 2012), Winnipeg Jets fans have to deal with the reality that the Regular Season might not start on October 13th.
Well thankfully Illegal Curve is here to bring you out of the CBA/Lockout darkness.
On the one-year anniversary of last year’s groundbreaking piece, Dave and Ezzy’s Top 10 Winnipeg Jets Home and Away games (the article was actually posted August 26, 2011). Even if there is a possibility that some of them may be cancelled due to a work stoppage we wanted to present you with our Top 10 games to look forward to.
So, without further ado, here is our choices for Top 10 Winnipeg Jets Home Games.
As always, please give us your opinions in the comments section at the bottom of the article.
Ezzy’s Top 10 Home Games:
Follow Ez on twitter: @icezzyg
10. Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, October 13, 2012 (1:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: It is quite simple why the home opener starts off my list; this game may never happen. Jets fans have waited all summer for the return of their team and if the NHL and NHLPA can somehow come to terms on a new CBA by September 15th then the Saturday afternoon matchup between the Hurricanes and Jets will be the first chance fans will have to see the Jets play since April 7, 2012 , a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Throw in the fact the Hurricanes have added Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin since last season and this is going to be one heck of a home-opener (if we have labour peace by then).
9. Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2012 (6:30 p.m.)
Reason: The Wild are the closest franchise to the Jets geographically (St.Paul/Minneapolis is a 7 and half hour drive from Winnipeg). To say that the Wild improved in the off-season would be a huge understatement as they spent nearly $200 million dollars to lure prize free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to the state of Minnesota. The Wild, who already employ Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, could be one of the most improved teams in the NHL this season.
8. Boston Bruins on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Of all the games that were played at the MTS Centre last season, perhaps the most impressive performance by the Winnipeg Jets was on December 6, 2011 against the Boston Bruins, a 2-1 victory that snapped a 15 game undefeated streak for the Bruins at the time. That game, which featured hundreds of Boston Bruins fans in the crowd, was one of the major highlights of December, a month in which the Jets posted a superb record of 10-3-1. The Bruins (2010’11 Stanley Cup Champions) are still one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference however, with two wins last season against the Bruins at home, the Jets aren’t being very good hosts.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, December 15th, 2012 (6:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: The Penguins visited the Jets twice last year but this year will be the first opportunity for fans to see Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the game today. Winnipeg lost three of four games to the Penguins last year, including two embarrassing road defeats in which they allowed 16 goals. Because the Jets will have to beat teams like Pittsburgh if they want to have a chance at making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, this game against Pittsburgh early in the season is all that more important. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that the Penguins employ another superstar. Evgeni Malkin is the defending League MVP and Points King so yeah, fans will get to see more than just one elite player in this game.
6. Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, November 15th (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Everyone remembers last year’s Jets home opener versus the Montreal Canadiens on October 9th. It was Sunday, it was Hockey Night in Canada and most importantly, it was the first NHL regular season game to be played in Winnipeg in over 15 years. But we would all like to forget the score in that game wouldn’t we? That’s because the Habs came into Winnipeg and smoked the Jets 4-1 in a lopsided, sloppy affair. The storied Canadiens have a huge following across the country and they seem to get loud cheers wherever they go, including visitor “unfriendly” MTS Centre. Circle this one on your calendars folks. When the Jets and Habs play, it’s always interesting.
5. Calgary Flames on Thursday, February 28, 2012 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: The Flames and Jets played once last year in Calgary (a 5-3 Flames win) but this year the Red Mile will come to the River City in late February for a much anticipated cross-conference tilt. Calgary has missed the playoffs the last three seasons but they are still a hard working team that will have lots of supporters when they make their way to the MTS Centre. Many hockey fans will remember Calgary’s run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals (Yours truly, Dave and Richy all made the trip there) and the excitement that they created with their style of play so this game should be much more entertaining than your average Thursday night game in February.
4. Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, February 11, 2012 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Last year’s Jets home game versus the Coyotes was billed as Jets 1.0 versus Jets 2.0 and even though the game itself was a 1-0 snoozefest, the game will not be forgotten anytime soon as it was a contest filled with emotion and nostalgia. Fast forward to this year’s game and it will be unique for a whole different reason as this may very well be the Coyotes last year in Phoenix (I know what you’re thinking- please don’t get you started). At the time this article was written, the ownership situation in the Desert was as murky as ever which means that the game on February 11th may be a fond farewell to the Phoenix Coyotes.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, December 31, 2012 (4:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: If you have ever listened to The Illegal Curve Hockey Show, you will know that I have been a big fan of New Year’s Eve games since my childhood. This year the Jets will play the new-and-improved Tampa Bay Lightning on December 31st (4 oclock start time) and as always the game promises to be one big rocking party. The Lightning are stacked with big-time point producers like Steven Stamkos, Martin St.Louis and Vincent Lecavalier so don’t expect this game to only be about champagne and dancing. There will be two competitive hockey teams on the ice fighting tooth and nail for the two points in the win column. Then it will be time for champagne and dancing.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, November 29, 2012 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: The reason this game is so high on my list may surprise a few people but if you’ll allow me to explain myself, I will tell you why the game against Toronto on November 29 gets the Number-2 spot on my list. Leading up to this scheduled game against the Leafs, the Jets will play six consecutive games on the road in 11 days, all against Eastern Conference opponents which means November 29th will be the Jets first home game in half-a-month. The Jets are always under pressure to win at home but when the Leafs are in town, the pressure is even higher. The Jets defeated the Leafs twice at home last year so Jets fans probably won’t be disappointed.
1. Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, February 9, 2013 (9:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: My Number-1 home game to look forward to this season is the Vancouver Canucks on February 9th, which will not only be the Hockey Night in Canada late game but the first time the Vancouver Canucks ever step foot into the MTS Centre for a regular season NHL game. The 2010’11 Stanley Cup Finalists have been one of the most dominant teams in the NHL since the 2004’05 Lockout and will arguably be one of the top teams in the Western Conference again this season. The main reason why the Jets/Canucks game gets #1 spot on my list is because of the history between the Jets 1.0 and the Vancouver Canucks (both teams used to play in the old Smythe Division) but also because of the amount of Canucks who used to play for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (Ryan Kesler, Corey Schneider, Kevin Bieksa, etc.).
Dave’s Top 10 Home Games:
Follow Dave on twitter: @icdave
10. Florida Panthers on Thursday, April 11, 2013 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: While I’m not overly nostalgic to see the Jets Southeast Division rival this year, the final game of the season should/could prove to be worthwhile. Either we will be saying goodbye to another NHL season, or Jets fans will joyously be cheering their first entry to the post season.
9. Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, October 13, 2012 (1:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Using a similar logic to my 10th choice, while seeing the Canes would not usually be on my wish list, listening to Jets fans welcome back their team after a summer hiatus will be well worth the price of admission. Additionally listening to the MTS Centre chant “Marc is better” or something of that nature in derision to Thunder Bay, Ontario natives Jordan and Eric Staal should be entertaining. Of course this game is contingent on the negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA which haven’t been exactly urgent of late.
8. Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, February 11th, 2013 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: While I expected this game to have been more ‘heated’ last season it fell somewhat flat. Perhaps now that Winnipeg has seen the return of an NHL franchise, the animus directed at those in Arizona has subsided. Of course if you read the vitriol written in the comments sections of newspapers, you wouldn’t be so sure of that. Still the Coyotes and Jets rivalry is a fun one and could prove to be another good rival for the Jets.
7. New York Rangers on Thursday, January 17th, 2013 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: I’m not sure what I’m more excited for; seeing Rick Nash as a member of the Blueshirts or seeing the post game presser between Ezra and John Torotrella.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, December 15th, 2012 (6:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Unlike back in the day when you had either Jagr or Lemieux but never both Pens superstars show up to the Winnipeg Arena, now fans have a chance to see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together on the ice. While it might not end with the best result for the Jets, you cannot help but enjoy watching two of the games superstars. It is also an opportunity to welcome back Tanner Glass, who was an integral part of the GST line that we enjoyed so much last season.
5. Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 (6:30 p.m. CST)
Reason: Best opportunity for a geographic rival. Depending on how the league realignment goes, the Jets and the Wild might be seeing a lot of each other for years to come. If the game in January is anything like it was last year, when the Jets stopped the Wild’s win streak and sent them on a tailspin that saw Minnesota drop from 1st in the West to eventually out of playoff contention, this could be another doozy.
4. Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, February 9th, 2013 (9:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: How can you not be excited for the only 9 pm start at the MTS Centre this season? The Saturday night crowd is going to be rocking as the city that was formerly the Cancuks farm club welcomes back the parent organization with welcome arms. The big brother/little brother rivalry has many in Winnipeg wanting to see the Jets lay the smack down on Vancouver. Plus who can forget the early 90′s when the Jets finally saw the Oilers & Flames start to fade only to be beaten up by Geoff Courtnall, Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Cliff Ronning and in a literal sense by Gino Odjick.
3. Chicago Black Hawks on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: With the threat of the lockout looming, this game as well as the game against the Wings game are two high on my list that appear to be in jeopardy. This would be a shame as many Manitobans want to see the local boys (Toews, Sharp) come back to Winnipeg and play. I believe the Hawks are my final team from the Original 6 that I have yet to see live as well.
2. Calgary Flames on Thursday, February 28th, 2013 (7:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Perhaps it is the thought of two former Atlanta franchises playing each other for the first time at the MTS Centre. Or perhaps it is a hearkening back to the days of the Smythe Division when characters like Lanny MacDonald, Joel Otto and Al MacInnis were beating up on the Jets 1.0. When we went down to Calgary in 2004 for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Jets garb everyone on the Red Mile were embracing the Jets and now that the team is back, and when the Jets move back to the West, it should be a great rivalry.
1. Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, October 27th, 2012 (6:00 p.m. CST)
Reason: Having gone to school just west of Motown in Lansing, I can attest to the power of the Detroit Red Wings in Michigan. The games at Joe Louis Arena were always a blast and it didn’t hurt that the team was a perennial Cup contender. Additionally, local hero Darren Helm from St. Andrews, Manitoba will have many supporters in the crowd.
Almost as exciting as the games themselves are the story lines that happen in addition to the game. Like the cousins from California who traveled in the heart of Winter to see the Sharks take on the Jets. Or faithful Illegal Curve Hockey show listener AllyK journey to the Peg’ for the home opener against Montreal. 2012-13 will hopefully provide us with many new tales of fans traveling to Winnipeg to watch some NHL hockey at the MTS Centre.