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The Globe and Mail

Jets' assistant wants players to embrace excitement

Winnipeg Jets fans arrive at the MTS Centre for the Jets' NHL pre-season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Winnipeg, September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade

Fred Greenslade/Reuters

While most Winnipeg Jet players are trying to avoid the hype and excitement that 's building in the city, assistant coach Pascal Vincent is recommending a different approach. He wants the players to embrace the emotion and the pressure.

Vincent says he doesn't want the players to shut out the craziness, which starts tonight with an estimated 70,000 people expected to gather at the city's Forks to watch the NHL's season openers on a giant TV screen.

"Not at all," Vincent said today when asked if coaches are trying to shield the players from all the activity.

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"We want to be part of it. You let the players know what's going on...We're in Canada, we've all been brought up watching the game. "

Vincent has faced his share of pressure. He spent 12 seasons as a coach and general manager in the hotly competitive Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, winning coach of the year honours in 2008 for his work with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He joined the Jets last summer, knowing little about the club.

Vincent said the players need to understand that today's fan support won't last forever.

"It's not always going to be bright outside. Sometimes it's going to be cloudy. Sometimes it's going to be rainy. It's how we face the situation that makes a difference," he said.

He added that fans rarely turn on the whole team, but tend to focus their criticism on one or two players. Some players handle that better than others, he said, and Jets coaches will have to figure out how to help.

Vincent tries to look serious as he speaks, but he can barely hide his own excitement. When asked how his first few months with the NHL club have been, he smiled and said: "I love it. It's fantastic."

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