Winnpeg's MTS Centre - The Loudest Arena In The NHL
One thing that Winnipeg fans were always proud to claim their own in the 90's was the title of being the loudest city in the NHL. The 'Old Barn' , as it was referred to around the city, was where WHA cups were won, WHA banners were raised, and where the NHL called home for 16 years. Visiting teams were always in awe of the ear piercing decible levels that were cultivated from the heart of the city; a fanbase who fed that heartbeat with a blood filled with everything hockey, everything Jets.
Fast forward 15 years and Winnipeg has found itself, once again, at the top of the list when it comes to deafening NHL arenas.
It all began on September 20th, 2011. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets were involved in a split squad game, which would be the first time the new Winnipeg Jets would take to the ice in front of their home crowd. Although this wasn't the official home opener, the energy in the building made you feel as if the Jets were about to take the ice in over-time of Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final.
The game started with a bang as Dustin Byfuglien quickly asserted himself as the 'rock star' of the team by laying a big hit to Jackets' forward Matt Calvert. Shortly after that, a scrum ensued with all players on the ice getting involved, including Byfuglien. As he made his way to the penalty box for his first fighting major of the pre-season, the MTS Centre roared in approval. The NHL was back, and this was their team. It was time to blow the lid off of their new home.
It goes without saying that the home opener in Winnipeg this season will be in many NHL 'Top Ten' lists as one of the most memorable moments to witness this year. Throughout the season, Jets fans have had a lot to cheer about at home as the team has posted an impressive 8-4-0 record at home.
However, it became quite apparent this past week during a game with the Boston Bruins, that Winnipeg was once again at the very top of the list of loudest arena's in the NHL.
In a 3rd period where Buston was pouring it on, the Jets conitnued to out-work and out hustle their more powerful opponents and to a knowledgeable city such as Winnipeg, that hard work gets rewarded with a noise that can only come from the MTS Centre.
At one point, Winnipeg's grinder line (which consists of Tanner Glass, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn) was the focus of a chant from the crowd; who were treated to a shift that showcased hard work at it's finest. Digging in the corners, making big hits, causing turnovers and chipping pucks out during a big push by the Bruins are what generated a G.S.T. chant from 15,004 fans.
With 5 minutes left in the 3rd period, anyone who was able bodied was on their feet. There were no excuses. The Jets, still only up by a goal, had given these fans what they wanted; a hard fought 55 minutes. It was as if the next 5 minutes didn't matter to the fans, because they were busy making sure the fans in Boston could open their windows and hear the fact that the Bruins were down a goal and that defeat was inevitable.
When the clock finally struck 0.0, there was no other indication that the game was over other than the ominus roar that seemed to only get louder and louder.
Tanner Glass, who played in Game 7 of the Cup Finals last season with Vancouver, was quoted after the game as saying that he had never "heard an arena that loud before."
As Winnipeg finally reclaims their ownership of the title of Loudest Arena In The NHL, they've also made some changes to how they interact with visiting teams, and they're probably the first city in the NHL that has forever bolded two words with their voices during the national anthem.
True North Sports and Entertainment is the ownership group which purchased the Thrashers in the spring of 2011. Although that move itself would warrant a worship from fans of hockey in the city, it was the announcement that the team would be named the Jets that would win over the hockey faithful in Winnipeg.
In a movement that began online in message boards and on social media, it was decided that during Canada's National Anthem, Winnipeg would pay tribute to their new owners each and every night at the MTS Centre. For those unfamiliar with the anthem, there is a verse that goes;
"With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!"
Of course, it is the "True North" lyrics that the crowd of over 15,000 yells at the top of their lungs and that I'm sure makes the visiting team wonder what just happened, and if the game had started without their knowing.
With Winnipeg being 'sort of' new to the NHL, visiting teams are welcomed with open arms and the players are treated well in public. Fans, more often than not, will express their excitement at seeing Alex Ovechkin play for the first time, or seeing a player like Chris Pronger, who was on the Gold Medal Winning team for Canada, take the ice at the MTS Centre.
That is, before the puck drops.
Once the game has started, I think if the queen herself (who had an oversized portrait overlook every game at the Winnipeg Arena) was wearing an opponent's jersey, she would be booed relentlessly and cheered sarcasticly when she finally turned the puck over.
If you think that the jeering doesn't get to the players, there have been two distinct instances when the crowd influenced the score and/or flow of the game, by riding the back of a player that eventually turns the puck over.
Back in November, the Philadelphia Flyers were in town to take on the Jets in an afternoon game in downtown Winnipeg. It was during this game that the crowd made sure Chris Pronger knew that they didn't approve of him playing against their team.
At one point, during a Flyers power-play, Pronger was maintaining possession of the puck while trying to set up with the extra man on the point. As the boos rained down from high atop the MTS Centre, he fumbled the puck on the blue-line and the Winnipeg Jets scored short handed on the ensuing breakaway.
More recently versus the Bruins, Zdeno Chara was the focus of the vocal group of Jets' faithful and he too turned the puck over in his own zone. Even worse, it was only 10 feet in front of his goalie. Tanner Glass was left alone in front of Tuuka Rask, but fortunately for Chara, his goaltender was on top of his head all night and he stuffed Glass with ease.
The Winnipeg Jets are currently enjoying a home stretch which will see them in the MTS Centre for all but 2 games in December. It's a nice Christmas present for Jets fans in Winnipeg, as they couldn't be happier to not only have a team back; but have a team back that works as hard as they do. A team they can relate to, a work ethic they can appreciate, and although the results will come slowly, they know and understand that hard work eventually pays off.