It’s been 16 years since he stood behind the bench at the old Winnipeg Arena, but former Jets assistant coach Perry Pearn still remembers that last game like it was yesterday.
“I remember it very, very well,” offered Pearn of the team’s Western Conference quarterfinal loss to the Red Wings on April 28, 1996. “One of the things I’ll never forget is walking out of the arena that night over two hours after we had finished that final game and I would say there were probably seven or eight thousand people still in the building. They didn’t want to leave. It was certainly a tough time.”
Having been there when the curtain fell on the original incarnation of the Jets franchise, Pearn is looking forward to taking part in another historic moment in the organization’s history on Sunday night.
“I guess when you kill a franchise you’re always responsible so I’m happy to see Winnipeg back,” joked Pearn, who spent the 1995-96 season behind the Jets bench under Terry Simpson. “I think it will be an exciting day for the city of Winnipeg. I know how disappointed everybody was when the franchise left. You had a sense all year that it was going to happen but until you play that last game you never realized how devastating to the community it was going to be.
“Tomorrow night, I’ll be thinking about that old Winnipeg Arena and the bench there,” he added. “It’s good that the franchise is back; I’m a Canadian and I know that this is a good thing for hockey and it’s a good thing for the National Hockey League.”
He may have been in elementary school the last time the Jets hit the ice in Winnipeg, but P.K. Subban has seen enough to know what to expect from the raucous crowd that invented the “White Out” playoff tradition over two decades ago.
“It’s going to be rocking for sure. I think it’s going to definitely be a cool experience,” described the 22-year-old blue-liner of playing in the Jets’ historic season opener. “Playing for the Montreal Canadiens, you always seem to find yourself in these types of games; it’s one of the perks here, for sure. The guys are really looking forward to it.”
Having called the Bell Centre home for the past four seasons, Carey Price has become an expert at staying calm in a playoff-like atmosphere. He’s planning on putting that experience to good use in the sold out MTS Centre on Thanksgiving Sunday.
“I’m pretty pumped. It’s going to be a lot of fun welcoming the Jets back into the league and being able to play in their home opener is really cool,” admitted the All-Star netminder. “Obviously all the fans are excited to watch the Jets play hockey again. I played there before in the Minor leagues and they’ve got a cool barn. It should be a lot of fun.”
Fully aware of what the game means to the city of Winnipeg, Price is looking forward to being a part of hockey history. Although, the 24-year-old has no intention of letting the Jets have all the fun on Sunday night.
“They’re going to come out hard and they’ll be feeding off their crowd so we have to be ready to weather the storm right off the bat,” he warned. “We’re all prepared for the noise and the excitement and we just have to stick to what we know we have to do.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSO:
Carey Price unveils his new mask
Habs claim Blair Betts off waivers