Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Be a Devils Fan In Winnipeg -- 2016-17 Edition

This coming Tuesday night, November 29, the Devils will be in the capital of the Province of Manitoba to play the reborn Winnipeg Jets.

If this were a World Hockey Association game in the 1970s... well, it wouldn't be that big, since we'd be the New York Raiders and we'd stink.

Before You Go. Winnipeg is in Manitoba. Manitoba is in Canada. In the entire National Hockey League, only Edmonton and Calgary have arenas further north. It's late November. It's going to be cold.

But not that cold, this time: The website for the Winnipeg Free Press is predicting low 30s for daylight and mid-20s for night. That's Fahrenheit. Don't look at the Celsius numbers, the ones you're used to are cold enough. You'll still have to bundle up, but it won't be as bad as usual.

Winnipeg is in Canada, so you're going to need to have, and bring, a valid passport. It's also in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York and New Jersey. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Do yourself another big favor: Change your money before you go. There are plenty of currency exchanges in New York City, including one on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.

Leave yourself $50 in U.S. cash, especially if you’re going other than by plane, so you’ll have usable cash when you get back to your side of the border. At this writing, the exchange rate is US$1.00 = C$1.34, while C$1.00 = US 75 cents, so, for the moment, it really favors us.

Tickets. At 15,016, the MTS Centre has the smallest capacity of any current NHL arena, smaller than even the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But the fans in Winnipeg are so thrilled to have their Jets back that they've sold out every seat since the re-premiere. Getting tickets might be tough.

The prices I'm citing are in Canadian dollars. Seats in the lower bowl, the 100 sections, are $123 and $139 between the goals, $101 behind them. Seats in the mezzanine, the 200 sections, are $123 between the goals and $85 behind them. Seats in the upper level, the 300 sections, are $69 between the goals and $58 behind them, with the last few rows behind the goals going for $42.

Getting There. It's 1,653 miles from Times Square to the Manitoba Legislative Building, the Province's capitol building; 1,648 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the MTS Centre in Winnipeg; and 66 miles from the closest border crossing, at Pembina, North Dakota, to downtown Winnipeg. (I won't be doing these for the CFL teams, but Regina, Saskatchewan, which only has a team in that League, is 1,940 miles from Times Square, and 101 miles from the closest border crossing, at Raymond, Montana.)

Knowing this, your first instinct will be to fly. Air Canada offers round-trip flights from Newark Liberty to Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International Airport for as little as $720. (Richardson was a Member of Parliament, and Minister of Defence under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s.) Unfortunately, you'd have to change planes in either Montreal or Toronto.

You can't get from New York to Winnipeg directly by train, either. You have to change trains in Toronto. Amtrak, however, runs just one train, the Maple Leaf, in each direction each day between New York and Toronto, in cooperation with Canada’s equivalent, VIA Rail. This train leaves Pennsylvania Station at 7:15 AM and arrives at Union Station at 7:42 PM, a trip of 12 hours and 22 minutes – 9:10 of it in America, 32 minutes of it at Customs (4:25 to 4:57 PM) and 2:45 of it in Canada. The return trip leaves Toronto at 8:20 AM, reaches the border at 10:22, and gets back to Penn Station at 9:45 PM.

Likewise, VIA Rail has just 1 train running every other day from Toronto to Winnipeg, leaving Toronto at 10:00 PM (giving you 2 hours and 18 minutes to make the change) and taking 35 hours to get to Winnipeg, arriving at 8:00 AM. It then leaves Winnipeg at 10:30 PM and arrives in Toronto at 9:30 AM 2 days later. In other words, this would be your itinerary (all times local):

Leave New York 7:15 AM Thursday
Arrive Toronto 7:42 PM Thursday (2 hour, 18 minute layover)
Leave Toronto 10:00 PM Saturday
Arrive Winnipeg 8:00 AM Monday

Game in Winnipeg 6:00 PM Tuesday
Game ends around 8:30 PM Tuesday (50 hours to make train)
Leave Winnipeg 10:30 PM Thursday
Arrive Toronto 9:30 AM Saturday (22 hour, 50 minute layover)
Leave Toronto 8:20 AM Sunday
Arrive New York 9:50 PM Sunday

In other words, you'd have to sit around Winnipeg for a day and a half, waiting for the puck to drop at a hockey game, and then for 2 more days, waiting for your train to board! Good thing I'm telling you about other things to do in the city! And then almost another full day in Toronto -- making for 3 nights in a hotel, meaning you don't save on hotel fare by taking the train!

And the price? From Toronto to Winnipeg and back, a mere C$440.70. Or US$328.88. With the New York to Toronto fare of $296 added on, the total is $624.88. So unless you're rich, the train is out. At any rate, Winnipeg's Union Station is at 123 Main Street at Broadway.

How about the bus? Greyhound does serve Canada. But you'd have to start out from Port Authority at 10:15 PM Saturday, and arrive at Winnipeg at the same time on Monday, in order to attend the game on Tuesday night. That's 48 hours: Not only is Ontario huge, but you'll be going around 3 of the 5 Great Lakes: Ontario, Huron and Superior. And you'd have to change buses in Toronto.It'll cost you $526, $400 with advanced-purchase.

Or maybe driving would be better. Keep in mind, it's better to do this with 2 people, so 1 can drive while the other sleeps. And you'll both need passports. And make sure your companion isn't someone who would say or do some wiseass thing at Customs, like answer the question, "Do you have anything to declare?" with, "I declare that I'm proud to be an American."

The most direct route bypasses Buffalo, Hamilton and Toronto -- in fact, it doesn't go through Ontario at all.

You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

However, unless you want to make a rest stop actually in Minneapolis or St. Paul, you're going to bypass them entirely. Take Exit 249 to get on Interstate 694, the Twin Cities' beltway, until you merge with Interstate 494 to reform I-94. Crossing Minnesota into North Dakota, you'll take Exit 349B to get on Interstate 29 North. At Pembina, North Dakota, you'll reach Customs.

Assuming you have everything in order and don't do anything stupid, you'll be allowed to cross over into Emerson, Manitoba, and your highway will continue as Manitoba Route 29. This will soon flow into Manitoba Route 75, the Lord Selkirk Highway. Upon crossing Route 300, it will become Manitoba Route 42. Take that to Manitoba Route 62, and that will take you into downtown Winnipeg.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, 4 and a half hours in Minnesota, 2 hours and 45 minutes in North Dakota, and a shade over an hour in Manitoba. That’s 24 hours and 30 minutes.

Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago, halfway across Wisconsin, outside the Twin Cities, outside Grand Forks, and counting Customs, which should have a bathroom and vending machines, it should be no more than 33 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

And, on October 14, 2016, President Obama finally ended the ban on bringing Cuban cigars into America. This also applies to rum, for which Cuba is also renowned. It is still considerably easier to buy these items in Canada than in America, but, now, you can bring them back over the border.

Once In the City. The name Winnipeg comes from the Western Cree words for "muddy waters." The region was a trading center for aboriginal peoples (usually called "First Nations" in Canada, rather than "Indians" or "Native Canadians") before the arrival of Europeans. French traders built the first fort on the site in 1738. A settlement was later founded by the Selkirk settlers in 1812, the nucleus of which was incorporated as the City of Winnipeg in 1873.
The Manitoba Legislative Building,
equivalent to a State Capitol or State House

According to the figures I have, Winnipeg has a population of 663,000, more than fellow NHL cities Denver, Boston, Washington, Nashville, Vancouver, Raleigh, Miami, Minneapolis, Tampa, Anaheim, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Newark and Buffalo -- but only 730,000 in its metropolitan area, meaning their "suburbs" add up to only 67,000 people. Nevertheless, with all the fuss over having its team taken away once, plus the sellouts since they got their team back, the chances of having its team taken away twice are very long.

Since Canada is in the British Commonwealth, there are some subtle differences. Every measurement will be in the metric system. Dates are written not as Month/Day/Year, as we do it, but as Day/Month/Year as in Britain and in Europe. So the game is played for us on "November 29, 2016," but for them on "29 November 2016" -- we write it as 11/29/16, they write it as 29/11/16.

They also follow British custom in writing time: This game is scheduled to start at 6:00 PM, and will be listed as 1800. (Those of you who have served in the military, you will recognize this as, in the words of M*A*S*H's Lt. Col. Henry Blake, "all that hundred-hours stuff.") And every word we would end with -or, they will end with -our; and some (but not all) words that we would end with -er, they end with -re, as in "MTS Centre."

Another thing to keep in mind: Don't ask anyone where the "bathroom" is -- ask for the "washroom." This difference was a particular pet peeve of mine the first time I visited Toronto, although it wasn't a problem in Montreal as I knew the signs would be in French.

Every measurement will be in the metric system: Temperatures will be in Celsius, not Fahrenheit; distances will be in "kilometres," not miles (including speed limits, so don't drive 100 thinking it's miles); and gas prices will be per "litre," not per gallon (so don't think you're getting cheap gas, because a liter is a little more than a quart, so multiply the price by 4, and you'll get roughly the price per gallon, and it will be more expensive than at home, not less). Better to get gas at one of your rest stops before going into Canada.

Manitoba's sales tax is 13 percent -- in 2010, this replaced the former Provincial sales tax of 5 percent and the federal GST (Goods & Services Tax) of 8 percent. In other words, the Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted Canadians to think he'd killed the hated GST, when, in fact, Manitobans are paying pretty much the same taxes that they did before. See how stupid it is to vote for conservative candidates? It doesn't work in any country, as Canada recently admitted by dumping Harper and his Tories for Justin Trudeau and his Liberals.

The Red River divides street addresses into east and west, and the Assiniboine River divides the city into north and south. Winnipeg doesn't have a subway, and its buses are $2.50 cash and $2.15 for a prepaid ticket. Again, that's in Canadian dollars, making it cheaper than New York's MTA or New Jersey Transit.

The drinking age in Manitoba is 18. Postal Codes in Manitoba begin with the letter R. The Area Codes are 204 and 431.

Going In. The MTS Centre is downtown. The official address is 300 Portage Avenue, at Donald Street. If your hotel is downtown, you can walk there, and you won't need a bus. If you drove all the way in, and aren't staying in Winnipeg overnight, most parking in downtown Winnipeg is $10 or less.
The arena is named for Manitoba Telecom Services, and opened in 2004, having been built in the hopes of attracting a moved or expansion team to the former city of the team now known as the Arizona Coyotes. In the meantime, the minor-league Manitoba Moose played at the old Winnipeg Arena from 1996 to 2004, and at the MTS Centre from 2004 to 2011.

One of the first events held there was the 2005 Juno Awards, Canada's equivalent of the Grammys. After a few preseason exhibition games, including one by the ex-Jets (then named the Phoenix Coyotes), the Atlanta Thrashers made the move, and played their 1st regular-season home game as the new Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2011.
The rink is laid out north-to-south. The Jets attack twice toward the south end.

Food. Centerplate operates the arena's concessions. Among the chains with stands there are Subway and that hockey-connected must-have of Canada, Tim Hortons. The arena also has The Exchange Restaurant & Beer Market, and the Observation Deck Bar & Buffet.

Team History Displays. In their 1st 3 seasons, the new Jets didn't make the Playoffs. They did make it in Year 4, last season, but got swept in the 1st Round by the Anaheim Ducks. But they do hang banners for the old Jets' WHA Championships of 1976, 1978 and 1979. The old Jets won nothing in the NHL, not even a Division title, so there's nothing to hang.
Although these guys tried to steal the old banner
from the Arizona Coyotes' arena.

Along the side of the east stands, in front of the luxury boxes, the Jets show the retired numbers of the old Jets: 9, left wing Bobby Hull; 10, center Dale Hawerchuk; 25, right wing Thomas Steen; and 27, defenseman Teppo Numminen. Wayne Gretzky's universally-retired 99 is also up there.

These numbers were kept semi-retired by the Arizona Coyotes, who also added the 7 of center Keith Tkachuk, whose number, as yet, isn't shown at the MTS Centre. Ben Ciarot is wearing 7 for the new Jets. (The Coyotes also added the 97 of center Jeremy Roenick, who never played for the Jets/Coyotes franchise in Winnipeg.)

Left wing Evander Kane wore 9 with the Atlanta Thrashers, and, when they became the new Jets, he asked Hull for permission to continue wearing it. He got it. He's now gone, but Andrew Copp wears it now. Also unworn at the moment is the 13 with which Teemu Selanne began in Winnipeg. The Coyotes haven't retired it, but the Ducks have retired 8 for him.
Bobby Hull holding up a modern mockup (note the Canadian flag on the label)
of his 1970s Jets jersey, with son Brett, wearing that franchise's Number 9 in Arizona.

While the Thrashers didn't have any officially retired numbers, they had withdrawn 37 from circulation following the car crash death of Dan Snyder. The Jets kept it out of circulation until this season, but it has now been given to Connor Hellebuyck.

Oddly, True North Enterprises, which had owned the Moose, have kept the Moose's banners up: The retired Number 12 of Mike Keane, a Winnipeg native whose first pro team was the Winnipeg Monarchs of junior hockey, and played the last 5 seasons of his career after 16 years in the NHL, Stanley Cups in 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens, 1996 with the Colorado Avalanche, and 1999 with the Dallas Stars; Division Championships in 2007 and 2009, the 2009 regular-season league title and the 2009 Conference Championship.

Hull, Hawerchuk, Serge Savard (a Jet for only 2 years at the end of his career), Phil Housley (a Jet for only 3 years in the middle of his career) and Brian Mullen are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hedberg, Housley and Numminen have been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame. Hull, Housley and Mullen have received the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America.

The Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame is located at the MTS Centre. Its inductees include original Jets founder Ben Hatskin; old Jets Hull, Hawerchuk, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson (the last 2 being ex-Rangers) and Randy Carlyle; and Manitoba-born NHL legends, including Terry Sawchuk, Bobby Clarke, and ex-Rangers Murray Murdoch, Babe Pratt, Ivan "Ching" Johnson, Art Coulter, Bryan Hextall, Alex Shibicky, Chuck Rayner, Andy Bathgate, Pete Stemkowski and coach Fred Shero. (Hextall's sons, Bryan Jr. and Dennis, have also been elected; Bryan Jr.'s son Ron has not yet been.)

Hull, Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, the old "Hot Line," were the 1st inductees into the Jets' team Hall of Fame. Those 3, plus Kent Nilsson, Joe Daley, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Danny Lawson, Ernie Wakely, Ted Green and Terry Ruskowski were named to the WHA's All-Time Team. Hull was the only Jet named to The Hockey News' 100 greatest Players in 1998. If THN were to do it again now, Teemu Selanne might be added. Dave Silk and Dave Christian from the 1980 U.S. Olympic team played for the old Jets.

UPDATE: Indeed, when the NHL named its 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017, Selanne was named to it, as was Hull.

Stuff. The Jets Gear Authentic Team Store calls itself "the best place in Winnipeg to pick up authentic Winnipeg Jets merchandise. With 3 locations to serve you, and open year-round, we're looking forward to outfitting every Winnipeg Jets fan."

There aren't yet any good books about the revived Jets, but there are some about the old ones. Curtis Walker and Timothy Gassen wrote Winnipeg Jets: The WHA Years Day By Day. And Curtis Walker wrote the next chapter: Coming Up Short: The Comprehensive History of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets (1979-1996).

Videos on the Jets are in short supply. The only one I could find on Amazon.com was a rivalry piece on the WHA version of the Jets and the Houston Aeros, Bobby Hull vs. Gordie Howe. Between them, in the 7 seasons the WHA existed, one of those teams was in the Finals every season -- and, in 1976, they both were, as the Jets' ended the Aeros' 2-year dominance of the league.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Jets' fans 7th, 5th among Canadian teams: "Jet fans pay through the nose but come out in droves despite no playoff games." The novelty of having the NHL back in town has not yet worn off. It remains to be seen if 'Peg fans will come out to watch a team that has disappointed them repeatedly.

You do not need to fear wearing Devils gear to a Jets game at the MTS Centre. Their rivals are the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ottawa Senators, the Edmonton Oilers (due to the WHA connection) and, to a lesser but understandable extent, the Arizona Coyotes. They don't care any more about the Devils than they would about any other team. You will be safe.

Stacey Nattrass is the Jets' regular singer for the National Anthems. She teaches music at a local high school. The Jets use Primal Fear's "Higher Power" as their fight song and the Isley Brothers' "Shout!" as their goal song.

Jet fans are noted for their creative chants. When the Buffalo Sabres came in with Ryan Miller, the goalie for the U.S. team that finished 2nd to Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Winnipeggers showed some Hoser pride by chanting, "SIL-ver ME-dal!" When the Washington Capitals came in with Alexander Ovechkin, they invoked the other chosen superstar of this generation of NHL players, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby, and chanted,"CROS-by's BET-ter!" When the San Jose Sharks came in last year, having just stripped Joe Thornton of the captaincy, they chanted, "WHO'S your CAP-tain?"

The Winnipeg White Out is a hockey tradition that dates back to 1987, when fans were asked to wear white clothing to home Playoff games, creating a very intimidating effect and atmosphere. It was created as a response to the "C of Red" created by fans of the Calgary Flames, who the Jets were facing in the 1st round of the Playoffs. The Jets eliminated the Flames in 6 games, and fans wore white for every home playoff game thereafter. Marketing for the team during the Playoffs referred to the "charge of the white brigade." Fans of the now relocated AHL Manitoba Moose (now the St. John's Ice Caps in St. John's, Newfoundland) also continued this tradition, as did fans of the continuing Jets/Coyotes franchise in Phoenix.
The Winnipeg White Out. That looks like a lot of snow and ice.

True North Enterprises, which owns the Jets and the MTS Centre, kept the Moose' mascot, Mick E. Moose. Obviously a play on "Mickey Mouse," he had averaged over 100 community appearances per season for the past 15 years in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba. Slight modifications to the costume were made, including a Jets jersey with Number 00 on the back, and a vintage leather aviator helmet, one that far preceded jet airplanes.
Mick E. and our own N.J. Devil pose
with a Columbus Blue Jackets fan at the NHL's All-Star FanFest.

After the Game. Winnipeg is a city, but it's a Canadian city. You're going to be safer than in most American cities. And while Canadians like to drink, the fact that the Devils and the Jets have no rivalry means that, if you behave yourself and don't antagonize anyone, the home fans will do the same.

The MTS Centre is downtown, so there are plenty of places to get a postgame meal or drink. A bar named Tavern United and a Japanese restaurant named Samurai are across Hargrave Street on the arena's west side. A restaurant called The Allen is across Donald Street on the arena's east side, although it looks more like "fine dining" than "postgame meal" territory.

There is unlikely to be a bar in Winnipeg that caters to expatriate or visiting New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. Your best bet is to look for red or white Devils jerseys, see which fans look like they've been there before, presume that they know what they're doing, and follow them.

If your visit to Winnipeg is during the European soccer season, as we are now in, your best bet to watch your club is at The Pint, at 274 Garry Street, downtown.

Sidelights. Despite Winnipeg's hockey struggles after leaving the WHA, they've actually got a decent sports history.

There was a 3-building complex at 1430 Maroons Road, at the corner of Empress Street. This included the Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg Stadium and the Polo Park horse racing track.

The Arena was home to the Winnipeg Warriors of the Western Hockey League from its opening in 1955 until 1961, the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Canada Hockey League from 1967 to 1972, the orginal WHA/NHL Jets from 1972 to 1996, and the Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League and the American Hockey League from 1996 to 2004, when the MTS Centre Opened.
It also hosted Game 3 of the 1972 Canadian-Soviet "Summit Series," even though Winnipeg was, at the time, not an NHL city, and was, in fact, pandering to the WHA. This was awkward because Team Canada only included players from the NHL, barring defectors to the WHA like Bobby Hull (Chicago to Winnipeg), Bernie Parent (Toronto to Philadelphia, before Philly again in the NHL) and Gerry Cheevers (Boston to Cleveland).

That, plus Bobby Orr's injury, made the series a down-to-the-last-minute-of-the-last-game affair. Had Hull been allowed and Orr able to play, the legend of the great Red Army team might have been strangled in the crib.
Note the steep upper deck and the portrait of
Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.

Like the Colisee de Quebec, 10,000 seats was enough for the WHA, but not for the NHL. So, like their WHA bretheren the Nordiques, they expanded their Louis St. Laurent-era arena to 15,000 seats. Unfortunately, also like the Nords, the Jets found the NHL rough going from 1979 onward, losing the core of their WHA dynasty in a dispersal draft, and setting a league record in 1980-81 for longest winless streak: 30 games (23 losses, 7 ties), and earning the nickname "Loseipeg."

Also like the Nords, they got better in the 1980s, and made the Playoffs again in the 1990s. But, again, like the Nords, it was too late, as the combination of a bad exchange rate and an outdated arena led to them moving. Like Winnipeg, Quebec City now has a new arena, too, so, like the Jets, the Nords could come back, too.

Winnipeg Stadium stood at 1465 Maroons Road, and was home to the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1953 to 2012. The Bombers have won 10 Grey Cups, 7 of them on Maroons Road: 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1984, 1988 and 1990. It was also home to baseball's Winnipeg Whips in 1970 and '71. Another baseball team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes, played there from 1954 to 1964, as a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, winning Northern League Pennants in 1957, 1959 and 1960. The new version of the Goldeyes played there from 1994 to 1998.

The Stadium seated about 33,000 at its peak, although temporary seating for the 1991 Grey Cup raised it to 51,985. In 2000, a hotel chain bought the naming rights, and it became Canad Inns Stadium for the rest of its existence.

The Arena and the Stadium did not share space with Polo Park for long. Polo Park hosted thoroughbred racing from 1925 to 1956, and was demolished shortly thereafter. The Polo Park Mall opened in 1959. Today, an industrial site sits across Maroons Road from the mall, where the Arena and the Stadium once stood. Bus 11 from downtown.

Today, the Blue Bombers play at Investors Group Field. Opening in 2013 on the campus of the University of Manitoba, it is a 33,500-seat facility that can be expanded to 40,000. It hosted the 2015 Grey Cup (Edmonton beat Ottawa), and 7 games of the 2015 Women's World Cup, including the U.S.' win over Australia and draw with Sweden en route to winning the Cup.

Taylor Swift played its 1st concert, but its 1st sold-out concert was by then 71-year-old Paul McCartney. (For comparison's sake: When Taylor Swift was born in 1989, Paul was 47, on one of his biggest tours and was still making the U.S. Top 40. Taylor should be so lucky in 2036.) The King and Queen of recent pop music, Jay-Z and Beyonce, played it in 2014, 1 of only 2 Canadian venues on their tour (the other being the Rogers Centre in Toronto). This coming October 23, it will host the NHL Heritage Classic, between the Jets and the Edmonton Oilers.

315 Chancellor Matheson Road at University Crescent, about 6 miles south of downtown. Number 60 bus.

The University of Manitoba Bisons won the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey, in 1935, 1937 and 1946. Other Manitoba-based teams to do so were the 1921 Winnipeg Junior Falcons, the 1923 Winnipeg Monarchs, the 1938 St. Boniface Seals, the 1941 and 1943 Winnipeg Rangers, the 1942 Portage la Prairie Terriers, the 1957 Flin Flon Bombers, and the 1959 Winnipeg Braves.

Prior to the construction of Winnipeg Stadium, the Blue Bombers played at Osborne Stadium from 1935 to 1952, winning the Grey Cup in 1935, 1939 and 1941. A baseball team called the Winnipeg Reo Rods also called it home. Opened in 1932, with just 7,800 seats it was too small for CFL play. It was demolished in 1956, and the Great-West Life Assurance Building now stands on the site. 60 Osborne Street at Granite Way, across from the Manitoba Legislative Building.

The current version of the Winnipeg Goldeyes has played at Shaw Park since it opened in 1999. Formerly named CanWest Global Park, it seats 7,461, making it ideal for independent leagues like the current version of the American Association (not to be confused with the longtime Triple-A league or the 1880s major league of the same name).

These Goldeyes have won 9 division titles, and Pennants in 1994 and 2012, making for 5 Pennants for Winnipeg baseball teams. "The Fishbowl" stands at 1 Portage Avenue East, at Waterfront Drive along the Red River. Number 1 or 10 bus from downtown.

From 1909 to 1955, Winnipeg's hockey center (or, should I say, "centre") was Shea's Auditorium. For many years, it held Canada's only artificial ice surface between Toronto and Vancouver. The University of Winnipeg Library now stands on the site, although their hockey rink, the Duckworth Centre, is adjacent. 515 Portage Avenue, 6 blocks west of the MTS Centre. In other words, when the new arena opened in 2004, Winnipeg hockey was coming home, even if it took the Jets a little longer.

Winnipeg has won the Stanley Cup 3 times. Did you know that? But it was a really long time ago. In fact, they've gone longer without winning the Cup than any city that has actually won it: 114 years. The Winnipeg Victorias won it in 1896, 1901 and 1902. The Victorias played at the Winnipeg Auditorium, at Garry Street and York Avenue, downtown. The Auditorium was destroyed by a fire in 1926. A bank and a parking deck now stand on the site of the greatest achievement in the history of Manitoba sports.

The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame is at 145 Pacific Avenue at Lily Street. Number 20 bus.

Minneapolis is both the closest MLB city and the closest NBA city to Winnipeg: 456 miles away. Don't count on Winnipeg ever getting a team in either league: It would rank dead last in metropolitan area population. It already ranks last in the NHL, and still would if Quebec City returns, although not if Hamilton, Ontario gets a team as it has tried to do for the last 30 years. Even in the CFL, the Blue Bombers, at least in terms of metro population, have a "Borg ranking": 7 of 9, ahead of only the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Regina-based Saskatchewan Roughriders.

According to an article in the May 12, 2014 New York Times, the most popular NBA team in the city of Winnipeg is the Miami Heat, but in the suburbs, it's the Los Angeles Lakers. I don't know why there's a difference.

Like most major (or major-wannabe) cities, Winnipeg has museums. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is at 85 Israel Asper Way, at York Avenue, across Pioneer Avenue from Shaw Park. Number 1 or 10 bus. Across Asper Way and the railroad tracks is the Winnipeg Railroad Museum. The Manitoba Planetarium and Science Gallery is at 190 Rupert Avenue at Main Street. Number 20 bus.

Adjacent to the Museum for Human Rights is The Forks, named for the splitting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Because of this confluence, it was a meeting place for early Aboriginal peoples (Indians/Native Canadians/First Nations), European fur traders, hunters, riverboat and railway workers, and Manitoba's immigrants.

The complex now includes the Forks Market, in effect Winnipeg's South Street Seaport, Reading Terminal Market, Harborplace or Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market. 1 Forks Market Road, at Israel Asper Way. The Manitoba Children's Museum is also part of the complex, at 45 Forks Market Road. Number 1 or 2 bus.

Arthur Meighen, who served briefly twice (1920-21 and for a few weeks in 1926), is the only Prime Minister of Canada to have represented a riding (district) in Manitoba, in his case the nearby town of Portage La Prairie. There is no historical site in his honor, though.

The tallest building in Winnipeg is 201 Portage, standing a mere 420 feet at the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street, 3 blocks from the MTS Centre. It looks nice, but it's no skyscraper.

Any TV shows set in Winnipeg would only be shown on Canadian television, and wouldn't be familiar to Americans. There have, however, been major films that you would recognize shot in and around Winnipeg. Many of these have been westerns or more recent period pieces that take advantage of the surrounding prairies, such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (set in 1882 Missouri) and Capote (set in 1959 Kansas while Truman Capote was researching the murders that became the basis of his book In Cold Blood). Other movies with scenes filmed in Winnipeg include K-19: The Widowmaker, Shall We Dance, The Constant Gardener and The Haunting in Connecticut (despite the title).

*

Winnipeg is not very big city, and it's far away, with little to attract the local hockey fan besides hockey. But once you're there, it turns out to be a much more interesting place. Give it a go, whether you're a hockey fan or not.

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