The Winnipeg Arena in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was located in a city of over 700,000 people, in a market area of more than 1.5 million, conveniently located only 10 minutes from the Winnipeg Airport and downtown area. With a seating capacity of 3,000 to 17,500, the largest facility within a 500 mile radius, it's an attractive market for any event.
The Winnipeg Arena has hosted a variety of events such as hockey, basketball, concerts, ice shows, Disney On Ice, WWW Wrestling,monster truck shows, trade shows, conventions, circuses, and other various special events.
MARCH 13, 1998
Winnipeg Soldiers on Without its Beloved Jets
Journal Sports Writer
Winnipeg - A black curtain hangs around the Winnipeg Arena, literally separating this city's hockey present from its past.
Behind the curtain lie the empty seats that used to be filled by some of the 15,000 fans who watched the NHL Winnipeg Jets before the team was moved to Phoenix.
Now there are 10,530 seats left in front of the curtains at the Winnipeg Arena, more than enough for the Manitoba Moose, who are averaging 5,953 fans a game in the International Hockey League.
Whether Winnipeg and Quebec are joined in the NHL's boneyard by Edmonton hangs in the balance.
The economic effect of the loss of the Jets has been minimal.
"From an economic standpoint, the city and province have continued to prosper; by most economic indicators it's second only to Alberta," said Mark Chipman, who was on the Save The Jets committee and is now owner of the Moose.
A recent study showed that a major sports franchise in a city like Winnipeg or Edmonton contributes one-half of one percent of the city's economy annually.
But the toll has come in civic pride.
"It really has been missed," said Leslie Olson, who works for the Winnipeg School Division. "The Moose have filled a void, but the Jets gave the city a sense of pride. Look around in the malls, people still wear the Jets' jackets and hats. People are still in mourning. And it's not just here. I'm from Brandon originally, and people there are sick and tired of Winnipeg people complaining about losing the Jets. It's their loss, too."
Kevin Fyfe, 10, played in last summer's Brick Super Novice Hockey Tournament at West Edmonton Mall for the Winnipeg Junior Jets, a team that wears sweaters like the old NHL team's. He still treasures a broken stick of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin that he got at the Jets practice.
"Sometimes I use it to play street hockey. I haven't taken off the tape or anything," said Fyfe.
But his memories of the team are starting to fade and the younger generation will soon forget.
"I think it is a big disappointment because they don't really have anybody left to look up to," said Junior Jets coach Tom Zajac.
He is unsure what effect the loss of the Jets has had on minor hockey in Winnipeg.
"I'm not sure it had a real profound effect," said Zajac. "It just was a matter that the kids had no one to identify with. No one could take them to an NHL game to see the Lemieuxs or the Gretzkys. I think they lose that sense of being able to associate with those top players."
Chris Cariou, who was raised in Winnipeg, moved from Edmonton back to Winnipeg last fall.
"I think it would hurt more to lose the team in Edmonton because Winnipeg didn't have the success Edmonton had," said Cariou. "People will always think of Gretzky as an Oiler."
People have gone through different phases since the Jets left.
"Psychologically I think people are hurting at the loss, but I don't know that it's as bad as we thought it would be," said Chipman. "If you look at Hockey Night In Canada numbers, I think they're down across the country, and here I think the majority of people have gotten past it now. Everybody came to the conclusion it wasn't anybody in Winnipeg's fault we lost the team."
Generally, older people who grew up in the WHA days and young people who have little pre-IHL history are accepting the Moose. It's the generation from 25 to 40 who were raised watching the NHL who have taken the loss the hardest.
Winnipeg Sun sports writer Grant Granger said that unlike the way it was with the Jets, people aren't really interested in whether the Moose win or lose, and don't really know the players. They go to the games for the atmosphere, not unlike Triple-A baseball.
There some differences between the Winnipeg and Edmonton NHL situations.
"We didn't have the building," said Chipman. "So the capital cost to keep the team here wasn't only the purchase cost, we also had to spend over $100 million on a building, and that was just too much at the time. ...
But even with governments seemingly willing to come forward to help with a new building, Chipman feels the inevitable would merely have been delayed in Winnipeg, and fears the same in Edmonton.
"The long-term picture -- we were unable to ascertain what it really held. Just in the time frame that it took to try to save the hockey team, the economics of the league changed dramatically. ...
"The salary increases and the general direction of where the league's gone since it left Winnipeg serves to validate the fact we probably couldn't have made it here."
And therein lies the warning for Edmonton, said Chipman.
"In Edmonton they ought to be concerned about the long term. If you were to build a model you would look at the NFL, where there was a recognition that fans want to see parity, and parity comes from having a level playing field ... The NHL is the antithesis, in my opinion it's 28 teams trying to purchase a Stanley Cup.
And while Chipman wishes the Oilers well, he would love to see the Manitoba Moose playing the Edmonton Elks someday. "One of the things that we lack in this league is an overall context of who to hate."
Speaking of Calgary ...
On April 23, 1999 Jason Sheps wrote: Winnipeg Arena was built in the 1950s for the WHL's Winnipeg Warriors. After the Winnipeg Jets left for Phoenix, the IHL's Manitoba Moose took over. The arena was renovated a bit which included new club seats that are padded, an upgrade in concessions, a new Manitoba Moose gear store and a new bar and grill. There still is the bad lightbulb scoreboard and the capacity for Moose games is now 10 000+, but it is starting to improve. Starting in the 1999 Turner Cup Playoffs, Winnipeg Arena will get new replay boards, which were donated by the Toronto Raptors. The replay boards were originally used for a scoreboard for Toronto Raptors home games when they played at SkyDome. After they moved to the Air Canada Centre, there was no more need for the scoreboard and it came to Winnipeg Arena. Winnipeg Arena was recently the site of the 1999 World Junior Hockey Championships and will host some events for the upcoming 1999 Pan-Am Games.
On August 2, 2006 Joey Mulgrew wrote: The Winnipeg Arena is now simply a vacant lot...included are pictures of the on going demolition of the "old barn"...RIP...Although the Winnipeg Arena was quite a horendous place to see concerrts...it was pretty good for hockey even though it was built in the 50's. As the pictures will tell you...it was formidable structure to tear down...they did it peice by peice for quite a while, and figured that imploding the frame would indeed accomplish the finishing touches. Well...in fact...the implosion did demolish what was left of the outside and seats and all. but the frame remained. They ended up having to pull down the frame with various vehicles a few hours after the implosion. I did incluse pictures of some of the steps. The land has been purchased by the Ontario Teachers pension Plan Board for 3.6 million...an although many thoughts were offered for this site...it will become retail land. The demolition was "completed" on March 26, 2006 and as of today.. .it is a empty lot. Everytime I attend Blue Bomber games...it looks really empty over there...sad kinda. The Winnipeg Jets played their last game in the arena on April 28,1996 and the Manitoba Moose(primary affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks), November. 7,2004...this was the last event in the Winnipeg Arena. The final hockey game turned out to be a 2-1 shootout loss to the Utah Grizzlies...this was done in the AHL. A pre-game ceremony for this game, in honour of the history that took place in the Winnipeg Arena (once considered to be re-named The Bobby Hull Arena) was attended by many ald players such as Teemu Selanne, Anders Hedburg and Thomas Steen. The picture of the Queen is nowhere to be found...actually i dunno where it is...and the horrible scoreclock is gone FOREVER (that was the worst score clock for an NHL team). All of the actual seats were sold to the public at $5.00 a pop (money went to charity) and as lick would have it, a friend of mine ended up with one of th "A"s from "ARENA" the used to adorn the front entrance.
On a mild Saturday morning, I set out from my house with one intension, a complete exploration of the soon to be moth balled Winnipeg Arena. I assumed that the demolition crews had already created a ground level entry for me so I declined to bring my grappling hook. Unfortunately for me, the only hole was a broken window that was nearly three stories up and impossible for me to climb up to.
As I walked back towards the front of the building I passed by a trailer whose lights were still on. I had not seen anyone in the trailer when I did a drive by so I walked passed the trailer in a non-chalant manner. To my surprise a man walked past the window closest to me and began to put his coat on. Quickly I jumped behind a cat and began the waiting game.
To my surprise he never came out so I simply walked away and never looked back. I did not want to come away empty handed so I decided to climb up to the first level room and get a self-portrait of me in front of the Winnipeg Arena letters. Lady luck however has a funny way of working out.
Entry into the interior of the arena was quite easy as there was no wall to hold me back. In a move that would surely make the U.E. hardliners cringe and swear at me I walked across an I-beam to the catwalk. To my surprise it was much colder in the arena than outside and made me wish that I had brought gloves.
As I walked along the catwalk a flood of memories and emotions from my childhood swept over me. The White Out, yelling at the ref and opposing teams, acting like a maniac all played back in the back of my head. If there ever was a building that represented the heart and soul of Winnipeg the old barn was it.
All was not right however, there were no crowds or Van Halen blaring through the corridors and risers (for those who grew up in the arena, they will remember that Jump was played almost every game). There was only the faint buzz of phosphorus lights.
Sitting in the usual spot that my dad paid for, it soon became obvious as to why the arena was scrapped...our seats were actually sitting higher than the catwalks. Nonetheless it did not matter that the view was terrible, it was all about the atmosphere of the place. The drunkards throwing their beer at the visitors bench and ref, Dancin' Gab doing his jig and the hope that maybe, just maybe, the Jets would actually make it to the playoffs.
As a child I was always impressed with the arena and always wondered what was behind those closed doors. I also wanted to take a close look at the ancient jumbo-tron (which I am convinced is the first of its kind). Although I have grown up (only in size) the sheer scale of the jumbo tron and its primative RGB display still amazed me. The basement did not fail to disapoint me either, particularly when I gained entry to the large boiler room and locker rooms, both of which were remarkably intact. Of particular interest was a Queen poster that dated from 1984 that I found in a side room.
By now I had spent over two hours in the arena and my hands were effectively rendered useless by the -12 temperatures.