You’ve all heard the cliché quotes over the years, “it was like a playoff game” but really it wasn’t. Because frankly – only a playoff game is a playoff game. I don’t know how to describe it any other way. Playoff games are different. I’ve been to fourteen different NHL arena’s and lucky enough to attend several playoff games. Up until this season the best arena I had been in for atmosphere and noise was Montreal. They get it; they understand ever nuance of the game and when their team needs a lift. I can only imagine what a playoff game would be like there. That being said, you now have company Montreal…
MTS Centre in Winnipeg is different from any other building in the NHL. First off it is smaller, more intimate, and the construction gives the illusion that the fans are right on top of the players. It is loud, very loud. The crowd has a pack mentality of a college crowd in the US. They cheer like hell for the home team and they heckle the star players and goalie of the visiting team. They do this every game. That alone doesn’t make them special, but the consistency and voracity of which they do it EVERY GAME does.
Playing at home in sports almost always seems to be an advantage for the team in any sport at any level. The instances of a team having a better road record than a home record are the exception, not the rule. This season in the NHL, four teams have more wins on the road then they do at home. (Philadelphia, New Jersey, Montreal, and Vancouver) In Winnipeg’s case, it’s an extreme split where the team has 23 home wins and the best home power play and have only 11 wins on the road. Yes teams enjoy the benefit of last change at home but I don’t believe that has been the reason for such a huge discrepancy. Home crowds are an intangible, but in Winnipeg it has become a tangible advantage.
It starts before the game starts. At 5.00 hours before the game has started, the entire area around the arena comes to life. All the restaurants in the vicinity of the arena are full. If you don’t have a reservation or get there at 4.30 you are eating in the food court of the nearest mall. The buzz at the pregame skate is contagious, probably because many people are still going to their first game. Tickets are so hard to come by that most locals still haven’t had the pleasure of attending. Then there is the player introductions that cannot be heard over the crowd followed by the national anthems. The moment everyone screams “True North” during the Canadian anthem will surely send chills down your spine. If the Jets score first, look out because the building shakes and the visiting team are probably done. If the visitor’s are lucky enough to score first you will hear a collective grown followed by a “Go Jets Go” chant trying to pump the tires of the home team.
Bieber’s got it right!
Friday nights game drove the point home and had all the MSM who where watching the game comment about the noise and the crowd. Recently in a game against Buffalo, the Jets fans hit the news all over North America with the “Silver Medal” chant directed at Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. The crowd took it to another level against Washington and really targeted Alexander Ovechkin. During the game he was booed repeatedly which is not uncommon for the Jets fans. What was different on this night was the chant “Crosby’s Better” which was not only very cleaver, it also had the Twitter world buzzing and was trending in no time. Yes Jets fans, you have become news worthy and you are special.
During the broadcast last night on TSN, Brian Engblom commented about the crowd and mentioned that he wants to see the Jets make the playoffs. Why, because he wants to hear if the crowd has another level to reach and if they do he wants to be there to experience it. This coming from a former NHL player and long time broadcaster who has seen and done it all.
No doubt if the Jets do make the playoffs the noise in that arena will probably reach levels that are truly unsafe. Sara Orlesky from TSN said it best last night on Twitter “Confident that a playoff series here would result in significant hearing loss” I think you are right Sara, and you may want to invest in earplugs for the remaining home games. The Jets are in tough to make the playoffs this year. If they do though the teams owes a big debt of gratitude to the fans who have sold out their building every game and bring a circus like atmosphere to the building. This season in Winnipeg has brought new meaning to the term “home ice advantage”.