Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets a pat on the head from teammate Adam Lowry (17) after their overtime NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey loss to the Montreal Canadiens, in Montreal, Monday, June 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

‘A really hard year’: Disappointed Jets hope they gave fans a pandemic distraction

‘A really hard year’: Disappointed Jets hope they gave fans a pandemic distraction

MONTREAL — The Winnipeg Jets saw their season come to an abrupt end Monday.

And while bitterly disappointed, they’re hopeful a surprising — albeit short — playoff run provided fans in a province slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic’s third wave a welcome distraction.

“I never would have thought this (series) would have gone four games,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said at the Bell Centre after his team was swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. “That’s one of the most disappointing things … people have nothing to do and we were giving them something to do.

“We feel bad about that.”

They also gave them plenty to cheer.

The Jets headed into the first round as decided underdogs against Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers. Winnipeg not only surprised many with a series sweep, but won three straight overtime contests, including a thrilling triple-OT decision to advance.

“After those Edmonton games, coming out of the rink and seeing our fans honking their horns and lighting up the city was … one of the highlights of this whole season and honestly the whole last 18 months,” Wheeler added. “It gave you a life again to want to do this for Winnipeg and put on a show for them and keep giving them something to watch.”

Manitoba has been battered by the pandemic’s third wave. Although the numbers are starting to improve, the province’s chief public health officer said this week hospitals remain strained, with dozens of intensive care patients shipped to other jurisdictions to free up bed space.

“It’s been a really hard year,” Wheeler said. “Winnipeg is code red and everything’s shut down and kids aren’t in school.

“My family feels that just as much as any other family. Even the economic impacts of that in our community are far-reaching.”

The Jets played without fans all season — the province allowed 500 fully vaccinated health-care workers to attend Games 1 and 2 against Montreal inside Bell MTS Place — while Manitobans have been under tight coronavirus restrictions during the third wave.

“If we could have gotten people’s minds off what’s been going on, then it definitely makes you feel good,” Jets centre Adam Lowry said. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t keep this good thing going and hopefully reach some later rounds that maybe we’d have some more fans in the building.

“We know it’s been an incredibly tough year for a lot of people, so we appreciate the posts — the tweets, the Instagram posts and just seeing people wearing Jets stuff around the city. We really appreciate the support.”

Head coach Paul Maurice said it’s unfortunate his team wasn’t able to share its success, however fleeting, with its fervent, white-clad supporters in person.

The Jets played in front of their first real crowds of 2021 for Games 3 and 4 at the Bell Centre — at roughly 12 per cent capacity — in Montreal, where COVID-19 rules were reduced last month.

“It’s such a special place, Winnipeg,” Maurice said. “It’s a fantastic home building and the crowd is different there than anywhere else. So you feel like you missed out on something.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of sacrifice from a lot of people over the last year and a half. It would have been nice to give something back and to have the crowd. It’s not just the Jets and the coaches and the players, it’s the fans, too.

“It’s a painful loss, a painful thing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2021.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Just Posted

Mental health support centre in central Alberta to receive funding

Shoppers Drug Mart is lending support to the Canadian Mental Health Association.… Continue reading

Downtown Red Deer was packed with people who lined the streets to watch the Westerner Days parade on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Westerner Days parade cancelled, full details on modified event coming June 28

The 2021 edition of Westerner Days will look much different than any… Continue reading

City council wants to hear from the public at a May 25 hearing about whether the temporary homeless shelter should be allowed to remain in the downtown for another year. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer staff to recommend another extension to allow operations at current temporary shelter site

Following some more research city administration has received no other new locations… Continue reading

A scene from the short Western ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws,’ written and directed by Jason Steele, with support from Telus Storyhive. (Contributed image)
Red Deerians make ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws’ short Western film

Writer and director Jason Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus

Residents in several neighbourhoods reported little to no water pressure Tuesday night. (File photo by Advocate staff)
City hall to reopen for payments and customer service

Red Deer City Hall will reopen on June 21 for utility and… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: You can’t trust Mondays

Monday isn’t my favourite day. It insists on occurring right after a… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Vegas Golden Knights' William Karlsson as he is covered by Canadiens' Joel Edmundson during first period of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal Friday, June 18, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Andreson’s timely scoring, Price’s goaltending give Habs 2-1 series lead over Vegas

Canadiens 3 Golden Knights 2 (OT) (Montreal leads series 2-1) MONTREAL —… Continue reading

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) as he looks for an opening during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday, June 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Curry, Harris help 76ers stay alive, hold off Hawks 104-99

76ers 104 Hawks 99 (Series tied 3-3) ATLANTA — Seth Curry hit… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of a two-dose fall is… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mendicino has announced a new policy to help settle 500 refugees and their families in a news conference today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced plans to expedite applications and increase the… Continue reading

Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bland leads at Torrey and shows the US Open is truly open

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most… Continue reading

The Prime Minister's car waits outside the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg Tuesday, May 19, 2009. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is showing no sign he'll release unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at Canada's highest security laboratory — despite the prospect of being publicly shamed in the House of Commons for his refusal to turn them over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
PHAC head maintains he’s bound by law not to release docs on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant in Canada

OTTAWA — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly… Continue reading

Most Read