Sunday, November 07, 2004

Winnipeg bids adieu to faithful old barn

They’re holding a wake this weekend in River City, with an eye on a brand new downtown arena the hockey faithful took their final seat in the Winnipeg Arena on Saturday night and said farewell. Filling the venerable old building to the very last of the nosebleed seats arching high to the roof the cheered and cried, memories of many a famous night rushing back to their eyes as if they happened only yesterday.

After 50 years of some form of frozen shinny, the Winnipeg Arena will go dark and take with it countless memories of good times and bad. It was an AHL game on the schedule but for all intents and purposes this was one more chance to salute their Jets, the team that sent Winnipeg to the big leagues, a team that still has a torch burning so many years after their departure. Many of those attending the match were decked out in their finest Winnipeg Jets memorabilia. A testimony to how deep the scar of losing their NHL team still burns into the soul of a Manitoba hockey fan.

This weekend featured a number of the old Jets back one more time to celebrate all that was good about Hockey in Manitoba. They celebrated past Allan Cup winners, remembered the joy of a Memorial cup championship and the path to the big leagues through the Avco Cup years of the WHA.

From the days of Canada’s National team to the Team Canada stops against foreign competition, the Barn has seen its share of great moments. It’s also seen some sad ones as well, the gathering also commiserated at the lost chances of a Stanley Cup, gone seemingly at the time forever with the departure of the Jets for the desert of Arizona. But in true Manitoba spirit, Hope springs eternal, perhaps goes the wish a newly retrenched NHL will once again return to its Hockey Roots and once again call Manitoba home, it’s always next year country in Manitoba!

In one of those delicious ironies of life, the competition for the Manitoba Moose on this final night of the Maroons Road barn was the Utah Grizzlies, farm club of the Phoenix Coyotes nee Winnipeg Jets. Gone but not forgotten, Manitobans saluted their former heroes, their ghosts soon to be left behind to a wrecker’s ball.

Yet somehow one knows that the spirit of the Barn will carry on, many more chapters of Manitoba hockey are to be written. A new palace of hockey opens shortly, it one day will have its stories to tell, its history to recount. If it even has half the memories of Maroons road then it too will have lived a full and productive purpose for Hockey fans in Manitoba.

On Saturday night the home team lost in overtime, but really nobody was watching the score. The actual game itself, was just one of a number on the AHL schedule, the event though was one for fans to remember forever.

The Lights may go off for good, but its history will carry on forever!

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