Win­nipeg’s econ­omy has all the white stuff

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - JEN SKERRITT

Amid a sea of peo­ple clad in white jer­seys, suits and dresses, Bran­don Kli­menko hoists an in­flat­able Stan­ley Cup over his head, hop­ing it’s a sign of what’s to come for his beloved Win­nipeg Jets.

“This is like a dream come true for a Win­nipeg sports fan,” said Kli­menko’s friend Jeff Pinchin, sport­ing head-to-toe white, in­clud­ing a white suit that matches Kli­menko’s, white glasses and a white bowler hat. “We’ve been wait­ing for this and I just can’t be­lieve it.”

The Jets’ play­off run has ig­nited a frenzy, filling lo­cal bars and spark­ing downtown street par­ties that have at­tracted thou­sands of scream­ing spec­ta­tors. They all dress in white in a re­turn of the “Win­nipeg Whi­te­out” that dates to the orig­i­nal fran­chise’s 1987 play­off push against the Cal­gary Flames and their “C of Red” fans.

The Jets are the last Cana­dian team stand­ing in the NHL play­offs, mak­ing them the lone fran­chise that can break the coun­try’s 25year cham­pi­onship drought. The club is locked in a bat­tle in the be­stof-seven con­fer­ence fi­nal against the Ve­gas Golden Knights with the se­ries tied 1-1.

Ei­ther way, the ex­cite­ment has al­ready given Canada’s sev­en­th­biggest city an in­vest­ment boost.

“This is good eco­nom­i­cally for the city,” said Univer­sity of Man­i­toba eco­nomics Prof. Ryan Comp­ton, who teaches a course in sports eco­nomics. “When peo­ple across Canada see Win­nipeg, they’re go­ing to see that it’s a more dy­namic place, see the com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether, you see the ex­cite­ment.”

Win­nipeg, a city of about 700,000, didn’t al­ways have some­thing to cheer about when it came to hockey. The orig­i­nal team, formed in 1972, was strug­gling to com­pete with big­ger markets amid a weak Cana­dian dol­lar and ris­ing player salaries in the 1990s. The Jets played their last game in 1996 be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Phoenix as the Coy­otes.

“I was at the very last whi­te­out ever as a lit­tle kid and be­ing able to do it again now is just un­be­liev­able,” said Pinchin. “One of my sad­dest mem­o­ries as a child was los­ing the Jets.”

In the last decade, the city has made a push to at­tract more busi­nesses, re­tain work­ers and re­vi­tal­ize its downtown.

The re­turn of the Jets in 2011 is part of the rea­son the city has seen in­creased in­vest­ment in con­struc­tion in the core.

Many com­pa­nies such as NFI Group and Pol­lard Ban­knote are get­ting into the spirit by en­cour­ag­ing em­ploy­ees to wear jer­seys or white clothes on game days.


The Jets’ play­off run has put Win­nipeg and its white-clad fans in the na­tional spot­light.

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