Winnipeg’s economy has all the white stuff
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.