Jets fans land in Sin City

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

LAS VE­GAS — Winnipeg Jets fans have arrived in Las Ve­gas rev­el­ling in the nov­elty of both their team in the third round of NHL play­offs and com­ing to Sin City to watch it.

“We’ve been wait­ing our whole life­time to be this deep in the se­ries and then you throw Las Ve­gas in it, it’s nuts,” said Chris Kirk­wood in the shade of T-Mo­bile Arena.

The Jets trailed the ex­pan­sion Ve­gas Golden Knights 2-1 in the NHL’s Western Con­fer­ence fi­nal with Game 4 back at T-Mo­bile on Fri­day and the se­ries re­turn­ing to Winnipeg for Sun­day’s Game 5.

Some Jets fans had long travel days to fol­low their team.

“I went to the Jets game the night be­fore, got three hours of sleep, hopped on a plane, went through Van­cou­ver, San Francisco,” Mark Kuri­ata said. “Left at 6:30 in the morn­ing, got to Ve­gas at seven o’clock and was in bed by nine.”

Kuri­ata, a sea­son-ticket holder since the Jets re­turned to Winnipeg in 2011, firmly be­lieves his team is Canada’s team now.

“Ab­so­lutely. How could you not love the Jets?” he said. “It’s a life­time dream to go this far in the play­offs and have a chance to win the Stan­ley Cup.”

Di­rect flights from Winnipeg to Las Ve­gas are not a daily oc­cur­rence, but WestJet added an ex­tra non-stop flight both Thurs­day and again Sun­day in ad­di­tion to its reg­u­lar route in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a Game 6 back in Ve­gas.

White-clad Jets fans mixed with Knights sup­port­ers in front of T-Mo­bile prior to Wed­nes­day’s Game 3.

Pam Herda, a Winnipeg na­tive now liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, went all out with her cos­tume sport­ing a white wig, over­sized white sun­glasses and white dress.

An­them singer Car­nell John­son hos­pitably paused dur­ing O Canada on Wed­nes­day to al­low Jets fans to chime in with their tra­di­tional “True North” shout.

Even in a self-im­posed team bub­ble, Jets head coach Paul Mau­rice was aware of the ar­rival of Jets Na­tion.

“Every­body is hav­ing their own lit­tle good time with this,” Mau­rice said. “It’s its own lit­tle story, and its

own party.

“And the ones that are for­tu­nate enough to get on a plane to come down, they want to keep it go­ing. They’re in. They’re in­vested. They’re spend­ing money and emo­tional cap­i­tal and if they can get on a plane they’re do­ing it.”

Ron­nie Chu­baty, his brother Bran­don and Kim Car­na­han arrived well ahead of Game 3 on Sun­day and spent the time wait­ing for puck drop “drink­ing and sit­ting by the pool,” among other en­ter­tain­ments, Ronny said.

“Ev­ery­thing we can’t do in Winnipeg,” chimed in Car­na­han.

Chu­baty says he paid $270 for his Game 3 ticket. Chu­baty felt the un­ex­pected suc­cess of the Golden Knights in the team’s first year in the league bodes well for other cities want­ing an NHL team.

“I did not to ex­pect Ve­gas to get this far. I love it. Great peo­ple. Lots of fun,” Chu­baty said. “I think it’s good for the NHL. Seat­tle, Que­bec, there’s a cou­ple ru­mours, Kansas City. It might work out well for them.”

The trio wasn’t stay­ing for Game 4, how­ever, and was head­ing back to Winnipeg on Thurs­day.

“I love the way the Jets brought Winnipeg to­gether,” Bran­don said. “Down­town, all the crowds. You see the signs ev­ery­where, you see car flags ev­ery­where. I just love the feel. We’re all like one fam­ily.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Paul Bod­nar­chuk, from Winnipeg, was one of many Jets fans cheer­ing out­side T-Mo­bile Arena in Las Ve­gas Thurs­day prior to Game 4 of the Western Con­fer­ence Fi­nal.

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