Opinion Editorial

Jets debut gives more reason to support local hockey

Marc Zienkiewicz
Winnipeg Jets' head coach Claude Noel (back) watches the game during the third period of their NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens in Winnipeg, Manitoba, October 9, 2011. The Winnipeg Jets are playing their first season game since the franchise left the city 15 years ago. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade

Winnipeg Jets' head coach Claude Noel (back) watches the game during the third period of their NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens in Winnipeg, Manitoba, October 9, 2011. The Winnipeg Jets are playing their first season game since the franchise left the city 15 years ago. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade

Not to rain on anyone's parade, but it's been three days since the new Winnipeg Jets lost 5-1 in what amounted to a disappointing debut, and the initial excitement that came with the team's return is beginning to turn into serious discussion regarding what the team needs to do to succeed, and if it ultimately will in what is one of the league's smallest markets.

Despite the many different opinions on the issue, one thing is no doubt clear to many - the NHL represents what for many sports fans is over-priced and overrated hockey.

"From the players, to the officials. Just admit and enjoy it while it is here. You got what you wished for!!!... MJHL is more exciting, truly!!"

That little nugget comes from an online commentator called Moose Fanshaw, who posted his or her two cents worth on the Winnipeg Sun website on Tuesday.

For those who don't know, the MJHL is the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, one of the many such leagues in Manitoba where the best and brightest young hockey players go to show off their skills for adoring crowds.

There's some top-notch hockey played each winter in this province, and it doesn't cost a fortune to watch. There's the MJHL, of which the Selkirk Steelers are a member. There's the Manitoba East Hockey League, a senior hockey league that features such teams as the Springfield 98s, Lac du Bonnet Blues, Beausejour Beavers, and Gimli Wolves.

There's the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League, which includes teams from Stonewall and Warren. And that's not to mention the myriad of other leagues including other junior and midget leagues that feature players from our rural Manitoba communities.

And it's all top-notch hockey, minus the ridiculously expensive ticket, concession and merchandise prices that go along with anything NHL-related.

It's unfortunate that big-league sports like NHL hockey have outpriced themselves for a lot of sports fans, and force many to go digging in their already empty wallets just to be able to afford a ticket. It's all part of what author Michael J. Sandel calls the "skyboxification of culture."

"Not long ago, the ballpark was a place where CEOs and mailroom clerks sat side-by-side, and everyone got wet when it rained," he recently wrote in the New York Times.

But it's no longer that way, he notes. Kenton Larsen, one of my former college instructors at Red River College, recently commented on this on his blog.

"I knew that if and when the Jets returned, they would come along with air-conditioned corporate suites and skyboxes far above the 'cheap seats,' which would actually be expensive seats. And with them would come a whole new era of entertainment pricing strategies," he writes.

And that's what's happened. My dad took me to a Jets game back in the day, when the old Winnipeg Arena was still in operation. Sure we sat in the nosebleed section, but it was affordable (by the standards of the day, anyway). And it saddens me to know that other kids won't have that opportunity, because the current batch of Jets tickets is all gone and if there were any left, they couldn't afford them anyway.

But that's where our local teams come in. Now more than ever it's important to support them, because they're offering what the NHL can't - great hockey at a low price. And the kicker is you likely know many of the players personally.

And they'd be elated if you came out and watched them play.

-Zienkiewicz is Interlake Publishing managing editor



Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »