Like many Winnipeg Jets fans, Jerry Brown doesn’t get to many games at the MTS Centre because tickets are hard to come by. So he’s doing the next best thing: driving 730 kilometres to Saint Paul to watch the Jets play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
“I just want to see the Jets play there,” said Brown, who lives in Lowe Farm, Man., about 60 km south of Winnipeg. “I probably can never get enough hockey.”
Brown and his wife left on Wednesday, and they’ll have plenty of company once they get to Minnesota. A veritable convoy of Jets fans has made its way down for Thursday’s game at the Xcel Energy Center.
“We were turning people away,” said Ton Rinella, who runs Sun Ice Tours in Winnipeg and has organized two buses of Jets fans for the game. “It’s cheaper to get a ticket down here than it is in Winnipeg.”
Indeed, tickets to the Wild-Jets game were going for as little as $30 on StubHub, a popular ticket exchange website, and more than 260 were still available as of Wednesday. Rinella is charging $500 for his trip, which also includes tickets to a Minnesota Timberwolves NBA game, another Wild game, and three nights accommodation.
“We’re leaving bright and early Thursday morning,” added Derek McWha, who has 104 people heading down to Minneapolis/Saint Paul in two buses. His trip, which sold out, costs $325 and includes a lower-level ticket to the Jets game and three nights accommodation.
It’s not uncommon for sports fans in Manitoba to head to Minnesota to catch a Vikings football game, Twins baseball game or Wild or Timberwolves action. But with the NHL now in Winnipeg, the traffic southward is bound to soar.
It will pick up even more if the NHL succeeds with a proposed realignment plan which would put the Wild and Jets in the same conference. Under that format, the teams would play each other up to six times each season.
The Jets and Wild have already built the foundation for a rivalry. The clubs met once this season, on Dec. 13, 2011, in Winnipeg. At the time, Minnesota was the hottest team in the NHL but the Jets won 2-1. It was a chippy contest that left Wild head coach Mike Yeo noticeably tense afterward.
“I think, as you could see, the two teams don’t like each other out there and I’m sure that the next one will be very interesting as well,” Yeo said at the time. “They seem to want to get involved in a lot of scrums and stuff like that after the whistle and so, well, obviously, the next time we play them, it’s going to be a pretty exciting game as well.”
In response, Jets coach Claude Noel said: “Both teams clearly wanted to win the game. If that leads to the dislike, [Yeo mentioned]that’s what happens. That’s okay. Rivalries are healthy. You’re in Minnesota, we’re in Winnipeg, we’re one up on you.”
Minnesota is not the same team anymore and, like Winnipeg (26-26-8), the Wild (25-23-8) are fighting for a playoff spot. Both teams have 58 points and both are coming off multiple losses.
All of which makes Jets fans like Corey Munn even more excited to be driving more than seven hours in the middle of winter to watch his favorite NHL team play.
Munn has season tickets in Winnipeg, but the thrill of going on a road trip was too much, so he and three buddies are making the trip.
“I always wanted to go to an away game, so this will be my first,” Munn said before he hit the road. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be loud in that arena.”