As you might expect, on account of my popular Winnipeg Jets Memorial Site, my inbox has been humming lately. I’ve been making a number of media appearances, and as a result, my 15 minutes of fame has stretched into several hours. Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be and I’m happy it’s died down.
In more recent days, however, the prevalent theme in my inbox has been “Congratulations. You have a team back.”
Funny, but I don’t feel much like celebrating.
Against all odds, an NHL team is once again taking up temporary residence in the capital of the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba. Unfortunately, this team is the sole and exclusive property of its owner. Manitobans are welcome to join Mark Chipman for the ride, but the team belongs to him, not to us.
Chipman reluctantly listened to his customers and called the team the “Winnipeg Jets”, but I could care less what he calls his team. I choose instead to focus on the memories I have of the Winnipeg Jets. Chipman can go his own way with his team and I will be having no part of it.
Why, you ask.
I was one of the most dedicated fans of Chipman’s first team, the Manitoba Moose, for a number of years, not that I had a lot of competition. I got a lot of interesting stories to tell from it and more writing fodder than I can ever hope to use, but, spoken from a lot of hard-won experience, being a fan of a Mark Chipman team is excruciatingly difficult. I doubt there’s an owner anywhere in sports who casts more of a domineering influence over the course and direction of his team, on and off the ice, more than he does. It reached the point that I became unable to separate the entity of the team from its owner.
That’s when it was time to bow out as a fan.
And he’s doing the same thing with his new team. He’s running through that playbook, step by step.
And before you say it, yes, it’s his right to run his team in whatever way he sees fit.
It’s also my right as a prospective customer to reject it in its entirety, and especially now, since Greg Selinger has made me and every other Manitoba taxpayer an involuntary investor.
And that’s exactly what I choose to do now.
When the Jets left in 1996, I was heartbroken like many of you were. But, unlike the “return of the Jets” crowd, I wasn’t laying awake at night pining for an NHL team to magically appear underneath my pillow.
I moved on.
I don’t define my self-worth by the presence of an NHL team in the city in which I live.
Sure, I wouldn’t mind having a hometown team to cheer for again. I could get used to seeing the odd game here and there. But I’m not willing to sell my soul to Chipman for the privilege. It’s not that important.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones who didn’t sign up for a five-year commitment for season tickets that cost an arm and a leg expecting that a Stanley Cup parade will be going down Portage Avenue that won’t be happening.
Many of you are about to go down that same well-traveled path that I went down. It’s going to be a lot more expensive than the road I took, and if you think that NHL Winnipeg Jets version 1.0 gave you indigestion, you haven’t seen anything yet.
I sincerely thank all those well-wishers for their kind thoughts, but this is a “gift” that I’ll be passing on.