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Choosing your NHL Games: Fantasy about to become Reality

As season ticket are being snapped up by the city of Winnipeg like a slurpee on a hot day in June (note to self – get slurpee after work), those of us who are sharing season tickets have begun to focus on which games we want to attend.

Whether you have a draft or randomly draw teams, everyone has a preference as to which games they want to see.  Will it be Game 1, or Teemu’s return, an old Smythe division rival or an Original 6 team.  We can’t create a Top 10 list because we all place different factors on what games are important to us.

Coincidentally we received an email from a longtime reader (Stevie from NYC, a former Winnipeger) who offered us his thoughts, which he wanted to share with his fellow IC readers.  In addition to enjoying his memories, why not let us know which are your top games that you are eager to attend.

by Stevie from NYC

One of my fondest memories of my childhood in Winnipeg was the yearly ritual every fall when my dad would come home late at night with an envelope that he would empty on our dining room table. The contents were the most exciting thing a young hockey fan could wish for – our share of season tickets for the upcoming Jets season!
Jets Tickets

We split our tickets (Section 28, row 3, seats 5 and 6, on the blue line, right by where Ron and Don would stand to do the HNIC preview and where the refs would come out) with two others, which meant I had the task each year of making a list of the games I wanted to see the most and then waiting to see what we got. I can remember the excitement of seeing a Pittsburgh Penguins ticket fall out of that envelope, knowing that I would get a chance to see #66 up close, or seeing the otherwise dreaded Oilers logo and know that I had a date with #99 and friends. Those were exciting years.

With NHL hockey poised to return to Winnipeg, and tickets going on sale as we speak, I thought it would be useful to put together a cheat sheet of the top teams I’d most like to see at the MTS Centre this season. Obviously scheduling will come into play (the first home game will be #1 on most of our lists, as will games receiving the Hockey Night in Canada treatment) but I still hope this is helpful and triggers some fun discussion.

#1. Anaheim Ducks: Teemu. No further explanation required. Only question here is whether you take this game over the first game of the season….and whether there is enough Kleenex in the city to wipe away the tears that will flow on this night.

#2. Vancouver Canucks: No guarantee they will be on the calendar in year 1, but the potential Stanley Cup champs and one of the Jets’ historical rivals (I remember being up 3-1 against them in the playoffs and Greg Adams sliding into the crease to score in OT like it was yesterday) will be a top draw with their roster of Moose alums.

#3. Detroit Red Wings: I’m sure I’m not the only one that felt weird cheering on the Wings against the Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs this year. The ’96 playoffs are fresh in the minds of many a Winnipegger and seeing Kris Draper and Nick Lidstrom will surely trigger some memories.
Wings and Jets 96

#4. Phoenix Coyotes: This game absolutely needs to happen this year (especially since it may very well be the Coyotes last season….stop me if you’ve heard that before). Sure to be some great chants at this one..hopefully some ladies have some creative signs and lines for one Mr. Bissonnete.

#5. Washington Capitals: Fans would be wise to soak in our one year Southeast division rivalry with Ovi the Great. Anyone who saw the Caps on HBO’s Caps/Pens 24/7 should be excited to see this squad. And speaking of Caps/Pens….

To read about teams 6-15 on his list click read more.
#6. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens will be visiting the Phone Booth (we need a good new nickname for MTS Centre…) twice this year, and let’s all hope #87 will be in the lineup so we can thank him for bringing home the gold in Vancouver.

#7. Chicago Blackhawks: The first visit for Winnipeg’s Golden Boy, Jonathan Toews will surely be a cause for celebration, not to mention the sideplot of Big Buff and Andrew Ladd taking on their former club. Local cabdrivers may be less excited about a visit by a certain Mr. Patrick Kane.

#8. Edmonton Oilers and #9. Calgary Flames. The Oilers and Flames are classic Smythe Division foes, and while both these clubs are shells of their former selves, old rivalries will certainly be renewed in the years to come following realignment next season.
Jets and Oilers

#10. Montreal Canadiens and #11. Toronto Maple Leafs. Where you rank the Leafs and Habs depends on ancient allegiances, but we’ll be getting two visits apiece from these clubs, at least a handful of which should make it onto the HNIC slate.#12. Boston Bruins. No matter who wears the jerseys, there is always something special for longtime hockey fans about seeing an Original Six franchise come to town. Bump them up a little hire if they capture Lord Stanley’s Cup.

#13. Tampa Bay. Like the Caps, we’ll be getting 3 visits from Vinny, Marty and Stevie this year, each of which promises to be a fast-paced, exciting affair. Lots of Canadians to cheer for on this team too.

#14. New York Rangers and #15. LA Kings. Seeing “Winnipeg” and “LA” or “New York” next to each other on the jumbotron will be worth the price of admission for these matchups.

Honorable Mentions: The Minnesota Wild and the Jets have the makings of a heated cross-border rivalry pending re-alignment, but the Wild are not the most exciting on-ice product. The one visit this year by the San Jose Sharks is sure to be a hot ticket as are the two visits by the Philadelphia Flyers – hopefully Flin Flon’s Bobby Clarke makes an appearance at these ones. The Ottawa Senators are Canadian…I guess that counts for something.

How does this match up with your vision?  Sound off in the comments section.