Back in the summer of 2011 I remember a friend asking me when he was doing his Jets ticket draft for the inaugural Winnipeg Jets season about which games to select. I told him unequivocally that he absolutely had to take the first exhibition game between the Jets and the Blue Jackets. He seemed skeptical to waste a pair of tickets on a pre-season game (a split squad game no less) but I confidently told him that with this being the first NHL game for a reborn Winnipeg Jets team the atmosphere was going to make it feel like a playoff game.
Jets fans didn’t disappoint as they chanted ‘Go Jets Go’ for what seemed like an hour before the actual puck dropped and I’m fairly certain folks didn’t sit down for most of the game.
Once the puck finally dropped inside MTS Centre as Bell MTS Place was known back then it took Dustin Byfuglien all of four seconds to introduce himself to a hockey mad Winnipeg crowd inside the arena and watching at home. Here was the play as called by Dennis Beyak and Brian Engblom:
Just listen to that roar from the locals. There is no doubt in my mind that this is when number 33 solidified his status as fan favourite in Winnipeg.
Yesterday as I reflected on the career he had here in ‘Peg City I tweeted out that clip and there were so many responses from Jets fans reflecting on this play from the hulking defenceman.
Some of those comments:
“It took 5 seconds. Just 5 seconds for Buff to own this City and this Province. And just like that the Jets had an identity.”
“My god I love that guy. We were so lucky to witness him up close and personal on a nightly basis. There will never be another Buff.”
“Was lucky enough to be there. What a night! Buff’s massive hits to welcome the NHL back to Winnipeg, plus Scheif’s 4 (I think?) point night.”
“Chills reliving this moment!”
“My all time favourite NHL game ever – the energy in the building was over the top!”
“Think I’m just going to watch this over and over tonight!”
“I was at this game and this will always be a top 5 live Jets game memory.”
“I just watched this 4x. I think I’m in mourning for Buff.”
“Thinking about that first exhibition game still gives me chills. Everyone was so delirious about the return of the Jets that the atmosphere in the MTS Centre was absolutely bonkers. Then Buff introduced himself to Jets fans and somehow it got even louder and even more bonkers.”
“That’s my all time favorite Buff moment. The energy in that building was next level and he blew the roof off!!”
“That was the loudest hickey game I ever attended from start to finish. Amazing memory. Buff will be missed!”
“I was at this game: We ran to the arena just like we were kids. Guy beside me with tears streaming when the players came out for a packed arena warmup skate. No ads on the boards brought me back 30 years. Then buff introduces himself to the fans. It was fantastic.”
“It’s hard to express how much Buff means to mean as a hockey fan! There’s only one Buff, and will only ever be one Buff playing in our lifetime.”