Thursday, December 3, 2015

Toronto Maple Leafs 1 at Winnipeg Jets 6 - December 2, 2015

I picked the wrong season to add a bunch of Leaf games to my quest to see them in every NHL city. The team is not very good as they begin another rebuild, and I was lucky to see them win in Columbus before the Blue Jackets hired John Tortorella to turn their season around. But I expected that would be the high point of the five games I plan to attend, and judging from the result in Winnipeg last night, I was right.

I visited MTS Centre in its first NHL season in 2012 and had a few complaints, but those have been mostly addressed. You can now tour the lower concourse even if you have an upper bowl seat, thus opening all of the food options to you. The fans have also learned that you don't have to whine about every single call against your team. I was also impressed with the updated NHL/AHL map, one of my favourite features in any rink.

There are still a couple of areas where the venue could improve: not charging for wifi would be one (MTS is the supplier and only MTS customers can get free wifi), and removing some of the obstructions to view. My seat was in the 7th row of the upper deck and even there, I did not have a clear view of the goal beneath me as a piece of glass was in the way.

One other thing to note: there is a new bar called The Pint, a small chain with branches in Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. It is just a couple of blocks from the arena on Garry Street, and a great place to stop before or after the game, particularly on Wednesday when a pound of wings is just $4.

As for the game, it was dubbed the battle of the backups with Winnipeg starting Connor Hellebuyck (above) while Toronto went with Garret Sparks (below), who had shutout Edmonton in his NHL debut two nights earlier. In reality, this was the battle of AHL goalies as both were recent callups due to injury.

The Jets had struggled of late and when Toronto scored just two minutes in, I was hopeful. That was stupid. Winnipeg potted two in the first and then four in the third to win 6-1. Poor Sparks, his shutout is just a memory now as he was hung out to dry on multiple occasions by his defense.

I'm now on my way to Minneapolis to see the second game of this road swing. It is the Leafs third game in 4 nights, so I am not going to be hopeful this time. Well, a little bit hopeful, as it can't be any worse. Can it?



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