September 29, 2011
Jets owner a proud papaChipman gets chills as team skates out to thunderous ovation
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - He’d missed the first chance to see his new baby cuddled and stroked by 15,000 of its best friends.
So Wednesday night’s NHL pre-season affair marked the first time Mark Chipman got a chance to see the reaction the thing generates.
And from high above the crowd, in a centre-ice box suspended from the ceiling in the new press area, the man who brought the Jets back to the ’Peg looked very much the proud papa.
Soaking it up with Jets goalie coach Wade Flaherty, Chipman acknowledged there was a chill or two when the team skated onto the ice to a thundering ovation.
“It’s very cool,” the True North Sports chairman said. “Wade and I were wondering what it would sound like if we were in a playoff game. That’s what it feels like.”
It appears that’s what every game is going to feel like. The introduction of the starting lineup, the anthem — everything gets the full roar of approval.
Heck, they’re already taunting the goalies — Carolina’s Brian Boucher the recipient on this night — and the games don’t even count, yet.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Chipman said.
He’d also never heard the new protocol for O Canada.
“It’s very, very nice to hear people singing out loud. I don’t remember that happening in the old days. It’s nice to see people express their patriotism that way.”
Not to mention their corporate loyalty.
It seems the words “true north” get a little extra throat from a crowd that obviously knows what side its NHL bread is buttered on, not to mention who supplied the bread.
“I noticed that,” Chipman said. “That was very neat. Somebody mentioned something about that the other day, and I wasn’t sure what they were talking about. I get it now. That’s a very nice gesture.”
Just a continuation of the love-in going on in this town, one that’ll probably last until April, at least.
The atmosphere is in stark contrast to what the Jets players “enjoyed” in Atlanta, and raises an interesting question: what does support and energy like this mean in the standings?
This team was flying high until Christmas last season, then came down like a wounded Canada goose in the second half. Would some ’Peg power have helped?
“Exactly what went wrong, I’m not sure,” Chipman said. “We’ll try and surround it with a structure and a culture and a coaching staff. They’ve now got some certainty, something they didn’t have the benefit of. Winning is a combination of a lot of things, some of them are very tangible things, some are less tangible.”
A more certain future here and a madhouse for every home game are in the less-tangible category.
Chipman is convinced the din will mean points in the standings.
“For sure it can. I don’t know how many points it can. It’s a hard league to win in. And whatever advantage you can create at home, whatever energy you can create, in my experience over the past 15 years, when a team’s tired or they’ve been through a long, tough stretch, the energy of a crowd can help them get a good start to a game. The start’s a very important aspect of it.”
The owner already liked his baby. More than the one he almost picked up in Phoenix.
It’s young and fast, with a relatively low payroll. Lots of room to grow.
And 15,000 people showing up at its door every night, ready to feed it some love.
After what he heard Wednesday, Chipman is convinced it’ll get a little extra juice at least 41 times this season.
“We will be among the loudest crowds in the league,” he said.
A safer prediction was never made from the owner’s box.