Claiming An Identity

Jets

It’s going to be pandemonium. 

There will be 15,016 seats
filled to capacity and 100,000 stories of being at the first Playoff Game in
Winnipeg since 1996. When the Playoffs return to Winnipeg tonight for the first
time in 19 years the MTS Centre is going to have its structural integrity
tested like never before.

I anticipate the crowd will topple the decibel level reached
last night in the Saddledome. The smaller arena will be pushed to its limits by
the vocal determination of people deprived too long of the NHL’s second season.
There will be attendees ordering beers who weren’t even born the last time the
city had a chance to participate in the Whiteout.

Traditions are rituals that are taught from one generation
to the next; customs and practices that are shared by the community. 19 years
have passed between the last time the people of Winnipeg were able to
participate in a Whiteout and yet tonight it will happen again without
question. The ease with which this ritual will return underscores how important
it is to the identity of the city of Winnipeg.

It was always there. It never went away. Even without the
occasion to actually participate in a Whiteout, a generation of Jets fans grew
up knowing what they needed to do in this situation. Sometimes the raw power of
sport and its ability to assemble a community are overlooked. This is assuredly
going to be one of the most exciting days the city has seen in almost 2
decades.

That said, after the 1st two games of the series there
are a lot of concerns about the Jets. Here are three things that I’m looking
for going into this first ever NHL Playoff game at the MTS Centre.

BEDLAM

jets-fans-white-620

The building is going to feel like the roof is about to blow
off. There will be a low rumble at first, slowly building up as the fans enter
the building (and they will be there early tonight). It will become louder and
louder still until eventually you won’t be able to stand still without looking
all around you as the sheer cacophony of noise becomes completely disorienting.

The players will take the warm up and it will be louder than
it has ever been before in Winnipeg. The on-site reporters will marvel at the
fact that they can’t even hear themselves think. As the players leave the warm
up things will die down just a small bit.

Then the lights will go down for the players to come back
onto the ice and the steel beams holding the building together will sway under
the force of an emotional release 19 years in the making. Pushed deep down for
almost two decades the primal urge to scream will finally be allowed to happen
and it is going to be impossible to ignore.

This is almost 100% certain to end up one of the most
powerful memories the players will keep from their playing careers.

The power of the fans to raise the emotion of every player
on the ice will be awesome in nature. That’s not to say that they will raise
their ability to perform, just their emotional response to the situation. Players
that need to get amped up to play are going to feel like they just took 50cc’s
of Adrenaline to the heart.

THE EDGE

The fact that the crowd will be sending a direct current of
electricity onto the bench might not prove overly beneficial at all. Watching
the Jets from the outside they appear to be a team whose emotion has put them
in trouble BEFORE coming back to Winnipeg.

It may end up being simply a trick of the mind trying to
build narratives, but Andrew Ladd has seemed out of sorts with his decision making
out there and that has made him seem like a bit of a liability at times. The
samples are small and a couple lapses in judgment won’t be the measure of this
team, but with the team on the brink down 2-0 to the Ducks every little mistake
becomes magnified.

Anaheim’s Power Play efficiency during the regular season
was a measly 15.7%. Only Buffalo and Colorado were worse! After two games in
the Playoffs the Power Play for the Ducks is clicking at mind boggling 42.9%
efficiency. The Jets have been hammered when they cross the line in this series
so far. Obviously the PK needs to correct course, but the specter of being
drawn into more penalty trouble could start to play mind games with the Jets.

Winnipeg has yet to score on the Man Advantage at all, with
all of their goals coming from 5v5. Only netting 3 goals over the course of 2
games is a good way to find yourself down 2-0 in the series. Things need to
turn around. The fans will be there with them tonight no matter what, but if
they can apply pressure on special teams that place will go supernova.

OUT JETSING THE JETS

Going into this series I was watching to see how much
punishment and possession the Jets would control. 2 games in and the results
are not what I was anticipating. The Ducks have controlled 5v5 possession in both
games and matched the Jets in physicality then some.

Being physically dominant and puck dominant was Winnipeg’s
calling card during the regular season but the Ducks are proving why they won
the West by upping their game. It’s one thing to lose to a better team. It’s
another to lose the things that make up your team identity. The Jets have been
up going into the 3rd in both of these games but ultimately lost.

It’s not as if they have been royally outclassed. They can
win.

But the question remains to be answered whether they can do
that while being the 2nd most physical and 2nd best puck
possession club on the ice.

Whatever happens I don’t think these players are going to go
down without a fight.

For the fans, for the players, for the organization, tonight
is going to be a statement about who they are. Tonight is about Winnipeg.
Tonight is about being a Jet.

Tonight is about claiming your own identity.

Who will the Jets be? Let’s find out.