page contents The Lonely Existence of Winnipeg Jets Fans in Atlanta – The News Headline

The Lonely Existence of Winnipeg Jets Fans in Atlanta

“I’m guy sufficient to confess that I cried,” mentioned Austin Kitchens, 24, who had simply finished his junior yr of highschool when the Thrashers moved.

His pals funny story that he’s a northerner residing within the South, loving hockey as he does. Heading into that first season with out the Thrashers, Kitchens attempted to not just like the Jets. He was once jealous that Winnipeg may cheer for his crew, for his avid gamers. Then he began scanning message forums and gazing preseason video games on the web and following Jets journalists on social media and touring to Nashville and Tampa, Fla., for video games.

Over the Jets’ seven seasons, Kitchens estimated, he has neglected perhaps a dozen video games on tv. Whitlock has hardly ever neglected a recreation on TV or radio since he re-engaged with hockey after a couple of years of indifference. He incessantly works nights, putting in occasions, which is conducive to the later get started occasions of Jets video games, however he tries to observe with Claire — born on a Jets off-day, naturally — as a result of Winnipeg has a tendency to win when she does. Apart from for that double-overtime loss at Nashville in Sport 2.

“She fell asleep,” mentioned Whitlock, turning to Claire. “Don’t fear — it’s now not your fault, it’s now not your fault.”

Whitlock hopes she’s going to develop as much as love the Jets up to he does, which is much more than he cherished the Thrashers. Hockey, fast paced and bodily, appealed to him greater than soccer or baseball ever did. When the Thrashers left, he neglected having a rooting passion.

“I felt roughly like a man with no soul, you understand?” Whitlock mentioned.

The considered adopting a perennial contender, like Chicago or Pittsburgh, repulsed him. So did switching to Nashville, the crew closest to Atlanta. The Predators capitalized at the void via providing weekend price tag programs to deserted Thrashers enthusiasts. They incorporated discounted resort charges and a gasoline card, and Nat Harden, the senior vice chairman for tickets and adolescence hockey, mentioned the Predators offered nearly 150 programs.

One went to David Pugliese, 58, a former Thrashers season-ticket holder from Milton, Ga., who mentioned the crew’s departure crowned the checklist of disappointments in his existence. Pugliese attended a number of Predators playoff video games final yr and drove up for Sport five Saturday in Nashville towards the franchise he as soon as supported.

“I feel it could be a lot more bizarre if it was once the similar roster, however the roster has modified such a lot,” mentioned Pugliese, noting that simplest 5 avid gamers at the Jets had been a part of the Thrashers group. “There’s in reality no blended feelings.”

Had Matt McReynolds, 26, adopted his impulse, he, too, may have modified his allegiance. Indignant on the league and at Commissioner Gary Bettman, who he felt didn’t do sufficient to stay the Thrashers in Atlanta, McReynolds attempted cheering for Nashville. It felt atypical, synthetic.

In 2012, about midway in the course of the Jets’ first season again in Winnipeg, McReynolds had his left shoulder tattooed with the Thrashers’ brand. Step by step he started gazing the Jets once more, sucked in via avid gamers he appreciated who had been now dressed in a brand new insignia on their chests.

Photograph

Lipman was once some of the white-clad crowd for Winnipeg’s playoff opener on April 11, when Scheifele scored the primary purpose.

Credit score
John Woods/The Canadian Press, by the use of Related Press

“Now,” he mentioned, “it’s just about my child, my spouse and Jets hockey.”

As a hockey fan in Georgia, McReynolds already felt remoted and lonely; he hasn’t ever met some other Jets fan that he didn’t convert to the crew himself. It gave the impression herbal to commit himself to a crew in a town he hasn’t ever visited, that performs in an enviornment whose smells and sounds and attractions he can’t conjure.

As soon as, he mentioned, a buyer at a Publix grocery store in Conyers, Ga., the place McReynolds lives, noticed him dressed in Jets tools and known as him a traitor. When Whitlock wears his Jets hat, with a fighter jet atop a purple maple leaf, other folks ask why he helps the Canadian air pressure. When he wears his Thrashers hat, with a fowl gripping a hockey stick, other folks ask whether or not it’s a skateboarding corporate.

With out that kinship, Kitchens mentioned, rooting for the Jets looks like a personal undertaking.

“You’re now not about to visit paintings and say, ‘How about the ones Jets final night time?’ ” mentioned Kitchens, a union pipe more healthy from Stockbridge, Ga. “They’d be like, ‘Who?’ ”

Lipman had lengthy sought after to seek advice from Winnipeg. Looking for a extra communal enjoy, he booked airfare and a resort room for the Jets’ playoff opener prior to the common season ended, making a bet that they might safe home-ice benefit within the first spherical towards Minnesota.

To attain a price tag to Sport 1, Lipman, an interventional radiologist, cold-called some other one in Winnipeg, Brian Hardy, and offered his bona fides: a Thrashers season-ticket holder with a closet stuffed with Jets jerseys who watches almost each and every recreation on his pc or telephone.

An afternoon later, Hardy invited Lipman to sit down with him and his circle of relatives, however on one situation: that Lipman give grand rounds on the medical institution. For the instance, Lipman wore a military Jets jersey — his get dressed blues, he mentioned — and in a display of gratitude, was once offered with a trove of Jets paraphernalia.

“I were given a wide variety of great Winnipeg booty,” Lipman mentioned.

An unopened Jacob Trouba bobblehead sat at the back of the bar in his basement, the place Lipman watched Sport three on Tuesday on a tv crowned via some other bobblehead, that of Jets middle Mark Scheifele. From his seat within the enviornment, Hardy known as Lipman on FaceTime, letting him take in the pregame surroundings.

His blazer lengthy discarded, draped over a very simple chair, Lipman agonized as Nashville scored the primary 3 targets (you’ve gotta have that!), had a good time as Winnipeg scored the following 4 (that’s extra love it!) and kicked the espresso desk when the Predators equalized within the 3rd duration.

With six mins closing, he rose from the sofa to wave his “We Are Winnipeg” rally towel and rub the Scheifele bobblehead for just right success. A minute later, a Scheifele shot caromed to Blake Wheeler — a former Thrasher — whose snipe from a pointy attitude proved the profitable purpose in a 7-Four victory.

With Winnipeg one win from the convention finals, a playoff spherical neither incarnation of the franchise has reached, Lipman was once fascinated by his subsequent doable journeys — to Las Vegas, perhaps, along with his son, Jonathan, if the Golden Knights additionally advance.

However, in reality, he desires to go back to Winnipeg, to revel with enthusiasts who misplaced their liked crew and grieved its absence and are actually celebrating the most productive hockey they’ve ever noticed. Other people wearing white however dreaming of silver, of the Stanley Cup, identical to him.

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