St. John's set to host Jets

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:39 AM ET

To borrow a phrase from Newfoundland and Labrador, Mile One Centre is going to "blowed up like a sculpin" on Monday and for the rest of the winter.

In other words, it's going to be packed.

Pro hockey is back on the Rock, and on Monday the NHL will pay a visit for the first time since 2007.

The Winnipeg Jets, whose AHL affiliate is the St. John's IceCaps, will battle the Ottawa Senators in an exhibition game as part of the Kraft Hockeyville celebration. The nearby town of Conception Bay South won the Hockeyville contest last year but opted to hold the exhibition game in the provincial capital.

The folks of Newfoundland and Labrador can't wait.

"Having our parent club here, playing in this building and coming into our dressing room, just adds to the excitement," IceCaps CEO and governor Glenn Stanford said Sunday from Mile One Centre.

The Newfoundland and Labrador capital has been without pro hockey since 2005, when the St. John's Maple Leafs packed up and moved to Toronto to become the Marlies.

There was a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad, called the Fog Devils, based out of Mile One between 2005 and 2008, but it never really grabbed the attention of the locals.

Pro hockey is a different matter entirely, because fans have already snapped up 5,000 season tickets. The team capped sales at that number because there are only 5,825 seats in the building. The rink can seat a grand total of 6,275 thanks to luxury suites, all of which have been sold.

Sound familiar?

"We're like a mini-Winnipeg," Stanford said. "The excitement that you saw there (in Winnipeg) has been equal to the excitement here with the St. John's IceCaps and being back in the American Hockey League.

"It's great to get it back again."

Monday's game will be broadcast nationally on CBC, and Newfoundland's own Bob Cole will do the play by play. There are plenty of Leafs, Canadiens and Bruins fans on the Rock, but will they become Jets fans now that they're affiliated with the Manitoba squad?

"We hope so. Certainly tomorrow they'll be cheering for the Winnipeg Jets," Stanford said. "We're proud affiliates of the Winnipeg Jets and, as we did with previous teams, hope to create more fans for our National Hockey League partner."

Jets defenceman Johnny Oduya has never been to Newfoundland, but he is looking forward to spreading some hockey cheer.

"I heard they like hockey, so that'll be nice," Oduya said. "For the young kids that don't usually get to see it up it close, I think it's a good thing for sure."

twitter.com/PentonKirk


Videos

Photos