With the 2019-20 NHL season a little under two months away, it’s a good time to look over the schedule and pick out some dates that could be big for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans. Chances are if you’re in a group that has a pair of season tickets, or you work at a place that shares a couple of seats through the year, you’ve already given the calendar a good look and pointed out some of your must-see contests.
FEB 11 – New York Rangers @ Winnipeg Jets
Let’s just start with this one because this is the most obvious is it not?
When the NHL season opens up for the Jets, it will do so in New York on October 3rd as they take on Jacob Trouba and the Rangers, but the real fun will take place a little over three months later when Trouba makes his return to Winnipeg for the first time.
Trouba’s saga with the Jets has been well documented over the years with multiple contract issues and an overriding sense that he never wanted to play in Winnipeg or even in Canada long term which always helps foster resentment in a fan base. No one can say with any kind of certainty what kind of reaction he’ll get from the Peg City faithful when he first steps on to the ice that night and every time the puck is on his stick thereafter, but the safe betting would be a chorus of boos each and every time, with maybe some respectable applause throw his way when the inevitable video tribute happens during the first TV time out.
Speaking of glorious returns with “welcome back” video packages, Brandon Tanev gets his return out of the way earliest as the Pittsburgh Penguins come visiting October 13, and then Tyler Myers and the Vancouver Canucks come calling on November 8.
OCT 26 – Calgary Flames vs Winnipeg Jets (2019 NHL Heritage Classic)
The next highest likely circled on many Jets fan’s calendar is the last home game of a six game home stand in October that isn’t actually at home.
The Jets will head to Regina and meet up with the Calgary Flames and play outdoors at Mosaic Stadium for the second Heritage Classic for both teams. Winnipeg didn’t even get a goal in it’s first Heritage game back in 2016 when they hosted the Edmonton Oilers at IG Field and got shutout 3-0. In 2011, the Calgary Flames blanked the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 in their own game at McMahon Stadium.
The game itself will be your standard October hockey fare as it’ll be two teams looking to gain some traction early in the season and two points in the standings. It probably won’t be an instant classic, but the atmosphere in the stands and around the city should be pretty good as Regina hosts it’s first ever NHL regular season game. The local hockey fans will be pumped and visitors from both Calgary and Winnipeg will have made the trip looking for a good hockey time. Unlike the Classic in Winnipeg that took place in the middle of the afternoon, this game is set to happen in the evening – the start time is listed at 8 PM – so there will be plenty of time to get your pre-game drink on before puck drop.
By the way, the long range forecast for Regina on Ocotber 26? Sun with some clouds, a high of 9° and a low of 0° which should make for great conditions both on the ice and in the stadium.
DEC 27 – St. Louis Blues @ Winnipeg Jets
The Jets get their first (the preseason game on September 20 doesn’t count) real look at the defending Stanley Cup champs who just also happen to be the team that knocked them out of the first round of the 2019 Playoffs.
While St. Louis will see a few new faces in the Winnipeg lineup at this point, the Blues will remain pretty much the same team they were when they defeated the Jets in six games last April enroute to hoisting Lord Stanley a few months ago in Boston. By this point we’ll know if Jordan Binnington is for real and not just a goalie who caught a little lightning in the bottle for the second half of the 2018-19 season. Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko will more than likely be leading the offense while Alex Pietrangelo and Joel Edmundson anchor the defense.
Games against the Champs are always anticipated, this one against a division rival even more.
FEB 24 – Washington Capitals @ Winnipeg Jets
I don’t know about any of you, but I still hold a tiny amount of resentment towards the Washington Capitals for how the lockout shortened 2012-13 season went down. In case you need a refresher, the Jets were challenging for the Southeast Division title and actually had a lead on the hard charging Washington Capitals with a few weeks left to go in the season, but two crushing losses to the Caps in a critical home and home series – not unlike this game in 2020 which will be the second half of back to back set the teams play – threw the Jets off course. The team wasn’t quite the same after losing by a cumulative score of 10-1 and their hopes of not only winning their first division title since the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg, but also knocked them out of the playoffs entirely.
“That was * years ago Art, stop living in the past” is what I can hear your response being to that. Very well then, the other reason this game is worthy of some anticipation besides the fact it’s Winnipeg’s only chance to see Alex Ovechkin on the ice? It’s two days after the NHL Trade Deadline and will be Winnipeg’s first chance to see any new players the Jets have brought in for a potential playoff run – or race for a playoff spot.
MAR 20 – Minnesota Wild @ Winnipeg Jets
MAR 22 – Winnipeg Jets @ Dallas Stars
MAR 24 – Winnipeg Jets @ Nashville Predators
MAR 27 – Colorado Avalanche @ Winnipeg Jets
This could be the biggest week of the season for Winnipeg as it’s a run of four games all against Central division rivals and not only could playoff positioning be on the line, but so could a division banner.
You’ll probably hear a lot of “four games in eight nights” talk from broadcasters as the Jets last grind of the season has them going from Winnipeg, on the road for two in the southern U.S. before heading back up home to face what could be an equally road weary Avalanche team that will be playing in the middle of a stretch of games that has them playing every other night for two weeks straight.
The Jets will still have four more home games left after this stretch – all against Western Conference foes, but this stretch of four games may decide things a week before the actual regular season ends.