« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published October 09 2011

North Dakotans cross border for Jets opener

Winnipeg - Nobody has to explain to Winnipeg Jets owners Mark Chipman that his team’s following has extended across Canadian borders and into North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

“I’m maybe more privy to it because of my connections,” said Chipman, who has two degrees from UND and played football for the Sioux. “My wife is from Grand Forks. We have family down there. We have lots of friends and old teammates in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, so I get texts and emails from all those guys. That’s neat to see it has stretched beyond Canadian borders and into North Dakota. That’s gratifying.”

The Jets officially returned to Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon after a 15-year absence and several of those from the area were among the raucous crowd of 15,004 in the MTS Centre who watched the Jets lose 5-1 to Montreal.

Thanks to a shrewd move last year, St. Thomas, N.D., farmer Allen Tucker and three of his friends were there in row 4 of the lower bowl.

Anticipating that the Jets may be on their way back to Winnipeg, Tucker and his friends grabbed Manitoba Moose season tickets, figuring they would be first in line to get Jets tickets if they came back. As it turns out, they were right.

“That paid off nicely,” Tucker said. “We enjoyed Moose hockey very much. We enjoy hockey, but we didn’t expect the AHL to put on that good of a show. We went to a couple dozen games. We enjoyed those and enjoy Winnipeg in general very much. But when we heard the Jets really were going to happen, it was a thrill.”

Tucker said that he used to be a Washington Capitals fan.

“I went to more Minnesota Wild games than Caps, but I did make it out to Washington for three Caps games,” he said. “I would consider myself a Caps fan. But that’s no more. I’m a Jets fan now. There’s only one team I’m interested in seeing win the Stanley Cup and that’s the Winnipeg Jets.”

Brother Kris and Karl Holm, who grew up in Cavalier, N.D., and now live in Grand Forks, wore Sioux jerseys and Winnipeg hats to the game.

They were one of the few lucky fans who didn’t have Moose season tickets but were able to snag Jets tickets. They have a partial package, which will allow them to see 22 games.

“To be able to drive two hours and see some of the greatest hockey players in the world compete,” Kris said, “it’s something special and something I want to take advantage of.”

Kris said that he originally became a Jets fan while growing up in Cavalier and continued to support the team even after it moved to Phoenix.

“I followed them all the way through,” Kris said. “Now that the Jets are back, it’s going to be really tough to pick a favorite team.”

The Holms (Kris is a UND graduate, Karl is a current student) also said they are proud of what Chipman has been able to accomplish with bringing the team back.

“You look at what he’s done for this city,” Kris said. “You can tell it’s a different city. There’s a different attitude among the people and among the fans. The excitement is phenomenal.”

Chipman hopes the Jets brand continues to thrive in North Dakota and Minnesota.

“I know we have season ticket holders in North Dakota,” Chipman said. “Hopefully (the Jets) are going to be embraced by the state of North Dakota. And with Buff (Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien), hopefully we can grab a bunch of those fans as well.”


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald.