Finally visited the ‘The Peg’ – Winnipeg, Manitoba. It’s simple and quaint like a miniature version of Toronto. The downtown core is small. Getting to my cousin’s house, he told me we could view the skyline from his living room. I looked out and couldn’t see anything. Then he pointed to two buildings at a distance and I chuckled.
The roads are rubbly but that’s expected of a winter-heavy city and there’s constant construction. There is plenty of wide roads and many old industrial infrastructure. The suburbs is developing well. My cousin’s area reminded me a lot of the northern areas of the GTA. There’s a nice Filipino community.
There are a lot of things to talk about this city but I would like to break it down into smaller portions over time with the different locales I experienced:
MTS Centre: Home of the Jets!
Hockey is just the fourth or fifth sport I enjoy following. It becomes a bit hard to follow at first (finding the puck is a skill you acquire as you watch more) but once you get into it, it’s entertaining as hell. As a Canadian watching a hockey game would’ve been on the checklist and getting to see the Winnipeg Jets as your first live hockey game on Canadian soil is something.
I first watched a live hockey game in Buffalo in 2007 with my brother. The Sabres beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-3 overtime comeback. The Sabres were down 1-3 but scored three consecutive goals to win. The place got real loud and hearing that hockey goal horn go off for the first time was great. Hockey may only be the fourth or fifth sport I follow but it was top three when it came to the live experience.
The Jets were Canada’s seventh and newest hockey team. They relocated to Winnipeg in 2011 as the Atlanta Thrashers bringing the NHL back to the Peg for the first time since 1996. With a metro population of 730,000, Winnipeg is the smallest city to have an NHL team but that’s what adds sentimentality for the team.
The MTS Centre stood out in the downtown core of the city. Its bright yellow and blue sign could be seen from far away and the building is part of the downtown skywalk system being connected on three sides to the skywalk giving it max accessibility.
The center is equipped with a full spectrum of state-of-the-art electronic displays competitive to any arena in the NHL including a custom-built centre-hung scoreboard featuring four large video screens, a "Power Ring" measuring 920 feet around and a large outdoor video display visible in the heart of downtown. The Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum is located here as well.
We managed to get tickets two days prior. Tickets were almost entirely sold out and my cousin had the grace to pay a premium to get the last two. Seated close to the top in the upper level, we could still see the rink well and about two in every three fan in the arena was sporting a Jets jersey or something similar. All the commotion inside suggested hockey was back in Winnipeg. And I was there soaking it up with everyone.
The Jets took on the Vancouver Canucks for some Canadian team-on-Canadian team action. The place was packed. During the singing of the national anthem, the whole arena roared “TRUE NORTH” as homage to the owners and operators of the MTS Centre, the True North Sports & Entertainment company.
The arena’s interior reminded me slightly of Toronto’s Rogers Centre with plenty of unpainted cement giving it a grey colour. Beer prices were slightly cheaper than Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and the Jets store had plenty of bargain items.
The Jets won the game 5-4 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. A lively experience. The Winnipeg faithful stayed loud and engaged throughout the game and the back-and-forth scoring only added intensity. Looking forward to watching again