A fellow I follow on twitter (@wildroadtripper), and a resident of GTRCMBSHP has been cheering on the Jets, in hopes that they make it to the playoffs. The Wild certainly won't make any playoff waves at this point, so we might as well cheer for the closest team outside our fair city. That leaves Chicago or Winnipeg. As anyone older than 30 can tell you, a Minnesota hockey fan cheering for the Blackhawks is a bit like Mon Mothma sending a birthday card to Palpatine. It's just wrong.
So I can go along with this, at least for now. You see, as soon as the Jets are in a division with the Wild, I'm gonna have a hard time cheering for them. Unlike some people who have an attitude that if your team can't go all the way, you might as well cheer for your neighbor, I'm an asshole. I can't do it. Who I root for is usually based on a combination of things: spite (suck it, Canucks), the underdog (Phoenix, that lovable rogue), players I like or dislike (it's ok for the Red Wings to win it for Chris Chelios; Todd Bertuzzi? Screw that guy), but usually, it's arbitrary and capricious.
But this year, there's the sleeper reason: Travel. What I'd love to see more than anything else is for the Eastern Conference to have a long travel schedule in the playoffs. I'd love to see Peter Karmanos or Jeffrey Vinik complain about how horrible the travel schedule is. To hear Lou Lamoriello or Peter Chiarelli whine about how the travel has taken a toll on his players. (I said I was an asshole, you don't have to remind me.) All so that the Vancouvers and Calgarys and Anaheims of the NHL can say "That's exactly what we've been putting up with for years, bitches."
Or leave the bitches part off, whatever. And this is to say nothing of the player who's never traveled more than a couple hours one way for a playoff game. The NHLPA famously raised objections to the realignment plan this year and the League famously acted like a spoiled four year old and stomped off the field, taking its ball with them.
The realignment plan is not perfect, and I think the League has some work to do to make it work properly. Sure, there is a statistical advantage in some of the conferences in the realignment plan, but MLB has tolerated that for decades. Maybe there's a hybrid way to make realignment work (and despite what the League says, I think they can still manage to schedule the 12-13 season within realignment).
Such weeping and gnashing of teeth, I think, would help move the cause along and the game can be better for everyone involved. And, at least for now, it could be very good for the Jets. I hope you're with me.
I need to give HTP some background as to why I'm rooting for the Winnipeg J-E-T-S to make the playoffs...
1. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone OTHER THAN Oveckin to watch in the playoffs? If Winnipeg's in, more than likely, Washington will be out, and that's worth something right there. The Caps have screwed the pooch each of the last two seasons. They bombed in 2010 to Pittsburgh, and succumbed to Philadelphia last spring.
2. The Jets have a good combination for a playoff run. Two good scoring lines, some decent defense (and yes, Big Buff at the point on the PP, something Minnesota's Chuck Fletcher covets dearly), and Ondrei Pavelec in goal. As long as they can hold up (and Zach Bogosian doesn't go PMB on everyone else in the playoffs), the Jets could actually do something they never did while in Atlanta: win a playoff series.
3. Minnesota has made 'the Team of 18,000' a marketing slogan in recent seasons. How about 'the Team of 450,000' in Winnipeg? There is such a vibe in the city with the NHL returning, that you see the Jets '17 Squadron' main logo on buses, cars, streets, windows, you name it... reminds one of a college homecoming atmosphere, but it's 44 times a season. Throw in the fact that it's the NHL's smallest arena (Capacity of the MTS Centre is15,015) and you have a mad rush for anything Jets-related. The shouting of 'True North' -- the legal name of the Jets' ownership -- during the singing of 'O Canada' is as much a finger in the eye of the NHL hierarchy, as much as acknowledging the ownership of the team.
Watch a Jets game some time, and you'll feel the city live and die with the team's fortunes. The Jets marketing logo is 'Fuelled by Passion'. They definitely hit that nail on the head.
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