The crowd at Winnipeg's MTS Centre has become famous for jacking up the Winnipeg Jets this season and helping the team earn one of the best home records in the Eastern Conference. But not every Jets player is keen on everything the crowd does.
Forward Tanner Glass wasn’t thrilled when fans chanted “Crosby’s Better” during Friday's game against the Washington Capital when Capitals' forward Alex Ovechkin hit the ice.
“I don’t like that stuff. I don’t have time for that,” Glass said Saturday after the Jets practised. “Cheer for a guy or even against him but, I don’t know, I think that’s a bit much. … I wouldn’t be chanting it.”
Glass said it’s up to fans to decide what to do. “You can say it if you want. I’m not going to condemn it, but it’s not something I would be saying,” he added.
Some other Jet players were more neutral on the issue.
“I was trying to figure out what it was at first,” said defenceman Zach Bogosian, who watched the game from the press box because of an injury. “But I guess it’s just part of the play and the fans. … As much as I’m sure [Ovechkin]didn’t like it, I’m sure he probably got a kick out of it. It’s always a fun atmosphere to play in.”
Ovechkin did get a smile out of the chant, which came toward the end of the game which the Jets won 3-2.
“It’s good. It’s the fans,” Ovechkin said after the game. “It’s always nice when they talk about you and give you attention. I love it. It’s great for the league. It’s great for us. Everybody [debates]who’s better and who’s not. For me, it’s a nice atmosphere, and I love it.”
Saturday's practice illustrated just how passionate Winnipeg fans are for the Jets. Hundreds of people showed up to the team's multi-rink practice facility on the edge of the city to watch the optional skate, which coincided with a children's hockey tournament at the facility. Only 350 could sit inside the rink area but several hundred more lined the windows along the arena.
The Jets have a critical week coming up. The team is two points back of Washington for the final playoff spot in the conference and Winnipeg plays Carolina Sunday at the MTS Centre. The Hurricanes beat Minnesota 5-3 on Saturday in St. Paul after trailing 3-1 in the game. Carolina has won two straight and the team is five back of Winnipeg.
Jets coach Claude Noel said his players understand the importance of Sunday’s game and he won’t hesitate to bring home the message early if he sees any signs of a letdown.
“You bring it up and you mention it to them and then you keep them on a short leash,” he said Saturday. “And if they don’t start the game the way you want, you don’t play [them] Right off the bat. Right off the hop. Right off the start. You don’t wait. … You’re not ready to play? I’ll go with nine forwards or six if you want, or four [defencemen]or whatever. I’m not going to ease into it.”
Noel added that the Jets expect to have Bogosian for Sunday but the club could be without forward Eric Fehr who suffered an upper body injury in Friday’s game. Fehr had just started to get his game going after missing most of the season because of shoulder surgery.
The Jets got something of a break Saturday when the league announced that defenceman Mark Stuart had been fined $2,500 (U.S.) for a late hit on Capitals’ forward Marcus Johansson early in Friday’s game. Stuart drove Johansson hard into the boards and he left the ice briefly. No penalty was called on the play but there was concern the league might suspend Stuart for the hit.