Five years ago to the day, the cheers were deafening.
On May 31, 2011, people gathered in hockey jerseys and face paint at The Forks and at Portage and Main. They came with banners and bullhorns, shouting with hoarse voices.
And they dragged around nets, breaking into impromptu road hockey games.
Moments earlier at a press conference at the MTS Centre, True North Sports and Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman revealed the NHL was returning to Winnipeg.
What had long been anticipated, True North announced it had purchased the Atlanta Thrashers franchise and would relocate it to Winnipeg for the 2011–12 season.
The only catch was that Winnipeggers needed to show their support by committing to 13,000 season tickets before the June 21 NHL Board of Governors meeting, to convince the league there was strong fan support for the team.
The tickets went on sale to the public on June 4. The 13,000 mark was met in 17 minutes.
True North then started a season ticket waiting list, which was shut down after 8,000 people had signed up in two hours.
The next buzz in the community centred around the name of the new franchise.
Although there was speculation the new team would take over the Moose moniker — the name of the AHL team that Chipman and company had built up over the previous 15 years — the majority of fans called for the resurrection of the Jets name.
True North kept the name a secret until June 24, when at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota, Chipman introduced general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to “make our first pick, on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets.”
Cue another round of hoarse voices and road hockey.
Despite mediocrity, the Jets still manage to pull in a packed home arena and Winnipeg’s fans are known around the league as being some of the most passionate and loudest.
The decibel level inside MTS Centre hit 124 dbA during the first home playoff game in nearly two decades in April 2015.
The record for the loudest sporting event was set in September 2014 by nearly 80,000 spectators at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium. Guinness World Records acknowledged the crowd noise reached 142.2 dbA.
Winnipeg’s mark was hit with 65,000 fewer fans.
The Jets were swept out in four games in that first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.
But with team loaded with young prospects and the Jets poised to pick second overall later this month in the NHL Entry Draft, many analysts have picked Winnipeg to be a team to watch next season.
Jets fans are keeping the bullhorns and face paint nearby.
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