The Winnipeg Jets family lost a beloved member this week. Len Kropioski, known as Kroppy to Jets fans, has died at the age of 98. Kroppy has been a fixture on the scoreboard at the MTS Centre, giving a salute, big smile, and a seal of approval with a thumbs up to the team and crowd after the anthem.
Kropioski is a World War II veteran and was often show on the screen during the playing of the national anthem. The 98-year old resided in Kenora, Ontario, resulting in a two and a half hour drive to MTS Centre, as he was determined to root on his beloved Jets.
Jets fans were relieved when Kroppy made his return to Jets game in March, after his month-long absence due to illness. He was announced as the fan of the game followed by a standing ovation that went on for about three minutes from his fellow Jets fans. Kroppy was wiping tears away from his eyes as he was recognized from the crowd.
Kroppy would be applauded at what would be his last game at MTS Centre. Jets center Bryan Little kindly spoke of Kropioski’s passing saying, “We considered him part of our team, part of our family and the Jets organization. So it’s a tough day. The players are going to miss him. You go to a Jets game and everyone knew where he sat, everyone expected him to be on the big screen at some point, especially at the end of the anthem, giving the salute. We’ve definitely lost on of our best fans. He’s always going to be intertwined with the Jets.”
The Jets intend to honour their lost super-fan at their home opener against the Carolina Panthers on October 13th. Jets director of game production Kyle Balharry wants to bring the same energy to the arena on October 13th that Kroppy did on his last night saying, “The reaction of the crowd that night summed up the entire five years with Len being a part of the community. The reaction was amazing, from the fans, from the staff. Kroppy felt it that night as well. That moment will live on as one of those incredible moments in Winnipeg Jets history. I was glad to be a part of it in a small way but more so for Kroppy that he got to feel the love from 15,000 fans and everybody on the Internet after we posted the video.”
Kropioski became part of the game experience during the first exhibition game in Winnipeg in 2011, after the franchise relocated from Atlanta. He had rink-side seats and was often one of the last people to leave the arena. He even was a fixture at Manitoba Moose games before the NHL returned to Winnipeg. Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman paid his respects by saying, “This was a super fan and somebody who I know will be missed by Jets fans.”
Kroppy was a definition of a loyal fan, recently signing on to five more years of season tickets at his tender age of 97. We will all miss you Kroppy and the arena will not be the same without your glowing personality, kindness, and love for the Winnipeg Jets. Rest in peace!