Is this Heaven? No. It's Winnipeg.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

After reading today's Winnipeg Free Press column NHLers Saying No to Winnipeg, the first thing that came to my mind was something about Sherlock and a word that rhymes with "bit."

Let's face it: Winnipeg's never been the ideal place to live.

It's a cold, infrastructure crumbling, middle-of-the-pack city torn between maintaining its prairie roots while in a lose-lose competition with the larger cities of the East.

Sure, we have the Festival, Folk Fest, and Folklorama.  But those events pale in comparison to the Mecca-type followings that festivities like Toronto's Caribana and the Calgary Stampede have.

(On a side note, just how in the hell is a rodeo the basis of one of the most popular events on Canada's social calendar?  I personally think it has something to do with John Travolta and Urban Cowboy.)

Let's say, for instance, that an undiscovered, highly intelligent life force has been secretly living on the dark side of the moon for the last milennia.  They've been studying life on Earth in the similar fashion as Canadians study American life and culture.  One of the moon elders decides that the time has come for its brightest and most progressive person to make the leap from his or her shadowy underbelly of a home.  They have the choice of one of two pre-selected Earth destinations: Miami, Florida, or, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Or, let's make this example more applicable to a real life scenario.  Let's assume "Teddy" has a slightly-higher-than entry-level position with an auto manufacturing company in a city that no one could really complain about, like Raleigh, North Carolina.  After years of hard work, Teddy has finally been promoted to a senior position within the company.  The only catch is that he has to relocate to either Winnipeg, Nashville, or Phoenix.

I'd bet my life that both the moon creature and Teddy don't choo choo choose Winnipeg.

Winnipeg wasn't exactly ideal back when Bobby Hull signed his million dollar contract at Portage and Main in the 70's.  It sure wasn't ideal when Dale Hawerchuck and company routinely had their jock straps handed to them by the Edmonton Oilers in the 80's.  And, it certainly wasn't the ideal when Teemu air-shot his glove in rookie scoring supremacy in the 90's.

I also don't think we'd be better fans than those who support the Canucks in Vancouver, or the ones who root for the Oilers in Edmonton.

But I do think that Winnipeg would be a great place for an NHL team.

There's obviously the givens: NHL ready arena, ridiculously rich potential owner, etc.  But there's also the intangibles that words give no justice to.  There was something about game nights that had the city a buzz.  If you closed you eyes for even a few moments, you could actually hear a hum gently ring throughout the city.  Imagine the excitement surrounding something like a Bon Jovi concert (did I just admit that?). Now, imagine that taking place 41 times a year.

It's crazy to think, given my advanced age of 27, but there's a whole generation of Winnipeger's without a legitimate recollection of the Jets in Winnipeg.  Yes, those born in 1991 or 1992 might vaguely remember seeing the "Keep the Jets" rallies on TV. But there's no way they could remember the excitement the city felt when Kris King and Tie Domi were traded here, or the collective pain the city felt the moment Teemu ruptured his Achilles Heel, or the rumors he played street hockey with kids outside his Winnipeg home.

The whole Jets coming back to Winnipeg business reminds me of Field of Dreams.  Shoeless Joe asks if the magical baseball field he's standing on is Heaven.  An entranced Kevin Costner responds: "No.  It's Iowa."  An obvious tongue-in-cheek response, but one that nonetheless speaks to one essential element for why the Jets should come back: life is what you make matter what city you're in.


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