Last Thursday, I attended Greg Selinger’s State of the Province address. Some fellow Cre Comms and I sat at the media table, enjoyed the free sandwiches and coffee, and scrummed with the rest of the media when Premier Selinger was finished speaking. I felt alls professional and stuff.
One of the first mentions in Premier Selinger’s speech was how Winnipeg’s downtown was quickly becoming re-invigorated, thanks to the return of the Winnipeg Jets. This statement made me a tad uncomfortable.
I am beyond happy that the MTS Centre’s placement in the downtown has reminded Winnipeggers that we actually have a downtown area that’s worth visiting. However, since their return, I have become concerned with what it means for the Arts community: a strong, vibrant group of people who have been coming downtown for years. We’ve been buying tickets to MTC, PTE, RWB, and MTC Warehouse. We’ve been eating in the amazing downtown restaurants and trying to make it feel alive again. We never left.
I have heard differing opinions of what the Jets’ return will mean for the Winnipeg Arts scene; some say the patrons of the Jets and the theatre/galleries/ballet are inherently different and no one is choosing between the two. Others say that advertisers are pulling their funds away from program ads in favor of plastering them across arena boards that will be broadcasted to millions of people on Hockey Night in Canada. I don’t know which is true, but it makes me worried nonetheless.
Now, before you die-hard Jets fans start getting your backs up, as you can see from the picture above of the August Gloop boy look-a-like wearing a Jets jersey, (i.e. me), I have been a Jets fan since before I could say the word ‘Tkachuk’. My Dad was and is again a season ticket holder. He used to take my two sisters and I to as many games as we could. We’d cheer on Selanne, get a different treat in between every period, and generally leave in sugar-fueled tantrums. On the video of my younger sister Elizabeth’s birth, my Dad asks the nurse what ended up happening in the playoff game between the Jets and the Oilers. My Dad never got to see the end as my Mom went into labor, something he gives Elizabeth grief about to this day. Of course, he was saved the cruel experience of watching the Edmonton Oilers beat out our poor Jets in Game 2, in a score of 3-2. The Edmonton Oilers would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year, while the Jets would face extinction less than 6 years later.
Naturally, as an actor, Theatre and Jets patron, I am torn here. Maybe last Saturday night was just an unfair example, but when the beloved Teemu Selanne returned to Winnipeg with the Anaheim Ducks to play against the revamped team that made him a star, I was at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s closing night performance of Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty empty. And to be fair here, had my Dad offered me his other ticket, I might have passed up the greatest love story ever told to eat a $6 pretzel and feel the overwhelming pride of a city reborn.
I am a Jets lover, a theatre die-hard, and a patron torn. I will continue to try to support both, but worry that the Jets’ return will mean the demise of an Arts community that never left at all.
What do you think the Jets’ return means for Winnipeg’s theatre community? Did you once resemble a boy, too? Do you like $6 pretzels? Whatever your thoughts, I want to hear them. Comment and start the conversation.