The old girl's back

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

Picture this: a full house at the downtown rink tomorrow night, the bulk of the crowd getting ready to cheer for the Edmonton Oilers against the Phoenix Coyotes in NHL pre-season action.

Only the Coyotes skate out in Winnipeg Jets jerseys, sending 15,000-plus into convulsions and marking the largest mass flip-flop since the Liberals broke their promise to drop the GST.

Believe it or not, that was the plan for tomorrow's NHL exhibition game.

It was cooked up by Coyotes management, who wanted to honour the franchise's history, and wouldn't that have put a different light on a dark part of this city's past?

Most hockey fans in this town don't have much affinity for the Coyotes. Never have, really.

The fact there's only one player left who suited up for the Jets doesn't help.

STOLE THE JETS

More than that, though, Arizona is the place that took our team. Check that. It's the U.S. and its almighty dollar that stole the Jets.

And ever since, the Canada-U.S. rivalry has taken on new meaning around here.

The Coyotes' planned gesture might not have erased the lingering hurt, but it would have been appreciated, nonetheless.

"They would have shocked everybody in the arena," Coyotes play-by-play man Curt Keilback said from Phoenix yesterday. "The place would have gone bananas. From a promotional standpoint, it would have been great."

But it's not going to happen.

The jersey plan has been nixed, although no one's quite sure by who.

"Someone rejected the idea," Keilback said. "It wasn't the Coyotes."

The man who runs the new arena and the Manitoba Moose says it wasn't him, either.

"That idea was kicked around early on," Mark Chipman said. "I don't know what became of it, to be honest with you. I don't think it would make much difference to us, one way or the other."

You think maybe the big, bad NHL quashed it? Nope.

"No one is aware of this situation," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "That would generally have been a request we would have attempted to accommodate."

So old Jets fans go into tomorrow's game in a bit of a quandary.

It's like the brokenhearted lover meeting up with his old flame, a decade after she left him in tears.

Will she still be able to set his heart aflutter, even after all these years?

Or is this a chance for the jilted lover to hurl a few insults, to get one more look at his ex so he can tell his buddies how much weight she's put on and how much better off he is without her?

Either way, you might want to brace yourselves: you'll barely recognize the old girl.

The men she spent time with all those years have long been punted -- except for one.

Remember Shane Doan, the bright-eyed, 18-year-old she first landed back in '95? He's still around. The rest, dumped in favour of younger, stronger replacements, we presume.

Did we mention she's also hooked up with Wayne Gretzky, the same guy who used to kick sand in our faces year after year?

Oddly enough, Gretzky's old team will be in the building, too.

And how's this for a twist: a full house is expected, and how often did she attract that kind of crowd, back in the day? A little late for all the attention, wouldn't you say?

No, this probably isn't going to be easy for some of us.

Now, if she'd shown up wearing the familiar blue and white she used to favour, that might be a different story.

That might even tug at the heartstrings, just a little.


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