Yesterday I went to my first NHL game since the Jets returned to Winnipeg. I've been eagerly watching every game on television but I finally go to experience the excitement of a live game. And I had fantastic seats, in Row 2 close to the blue line. Wow. Apparently our fans are becoming known through the league as noisy and crazy. We went fifteen years without an NHL team after the Jets left. It took 20 minutes for season tickets to sell out for the next three years. Just getting a single ticket for a game is almost impossible. So yeah...the fans are crazy in love with our new team. The atmosphere in the building has been described as electric.
There were hard hits on the boards only a few feet away from us, hits that made me cringe. At that level, you can really see how fast those players move. Again, wow! They go full out, and in confined space like that, you can see how injuries happen so easily. I loved being able to see the players' faces. Defending the net, I saw the intensity on Mark Stuart's face again and again as he stared down his opponent, trying to anticipate his moves and keep himself between the puck and the net.
It was also cool to see the faceoffs from that angle, how focused everyone is as they wait for the puck to drop, and as soon as it does, how they move so fast, everyone knowing exactly where they're going. I saw the same pattern repeated several times, so these are obviously things they plan and work on.
The game started off a little slow, with not many shots for either team and I think that quieted the crowd a little. But it ended with huge excitement. Down 3-2, the Jets pulled their goalie for the extra man and banged away at the puck in front of the New Jersey net, seeming so close to getting it a number of times. The crowd was going crazy, trying to get the team going, but they just couldn't get that tying goal and ended up with a loss.
I wish my first live game had been a win, and I sure hope the Jets start winning again soon. I saw some ugly Tweets on Twitter from disappointed and disillusioned fans. Come on people! Your team can't win every game. Also, we wanted an NHL team. Nobody promised us Stanley Cup Champions. This team is still growing and we still get to experience NHL hockey in our city. It's great to be passionate about the team, but lets support them even through their losses.