November 23, 2011
Former 'Peg premier brims with Jets pride
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
WASHINGTON - Gary Doer was proudly sporting the colours of his hometown team.
As he walked in to greet a group of local reporters who were visiting Washington, D.C. for an NHL game, the former Manitoba Premier — and Canadian Ambassador to the United States since 2009 — was sporting a Winnipeg Blue Bombers hat and Winnipeg Jets jersey.
His enthusiasm for sports has been well-documented and Doer was bursting with pride during a 60-minute visit with journalists at the beautiful Canadian Embassy building in downtown Washington.
“It’s a very exciting and proud time — it was great last week when the Jets beat the Capitals,” said Doer, who was Premier from 1999 to 2009 and was in attendance for Wednesday’s game at Verizon Center between the Jets and Washington Capitals.
Doer was among those fortunate enough to be in the crowd for the Jets home opener as well.
“It was history,” he said. “The emotion, when they were dropping that puck to start the game, was something I’ll never forget. It was a lot of fun and a lot of history.”
Doer allowed himself to chuckle over the battle to get the downtown MTS Centre built and is thrilled at how big an impact it’s had on the community, ultimately helping to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence.
“Having a replacement for a boarded up building in downtown Winnipeg, as sentimental as that building (Eaton’s) was — and goodness knows people expressed their sentiment about it,” said Doer, noting he’s watched about a third of the Jets games this season. “It’s been great for the city ever since it opened. It’s been great for hockey, with the Moose, it’s been great for concerts. Everybody has been to that centre, even those people that had yellow ribbons around their arms, have been to a concert.
“The NHL is the icing on the cake. But it’s great icing.”
With the Blue Bombers preparing for the Grey Cup, Doer was also happy to share his thoughts on Sunday’s tilt with the Lions for all the marbles.
“I’m very pleased they’re in the Grey Cup,” said Doer, who is a former Winnipeg Football Club board member. “It’s a tough game. Of course, I think with Winnipeg’s defence and B.C.s offence, it’s going to be an interesting match-up. For this game, and this game being the Grey Cup, I hope the old adage that good defence beats offence every day of the week in football, I hope that carries through. I’ll be watching and I’ll be wearing blue. I haven’t missed a (Grey Cup) game the Bombers have been in for years, going back to when they won in Edmonton (over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1984).”
And finally, when the subject of Winnipeg (Canad Inns) Stadium came up, Doer took a casual stroll down memory lane.
“My favourite memory was selling popcorn. I was able to watch some of the football while selling and then I got promoted to being an usher,” said Doer, noting that Ken Ploen was at quarterback and the legendary Bud Grant was the coach at the time. “We were making a dollar a game and eventually they doubled our salary to $2. It doesn’t get any better than that, to get paid to watch a football game. It’s almost as good as what you people do.”