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Culture shock awaits Jets players as their first season in Winnipeg awaits

Aug 25, 2011, 10:37 AM EDT

Bryan Little Getty Images

While current Winnipeg Jets players were playing their games in Atlanta, there were a few things they could count on. They’d have quiet crowds, not much of a home ice advantage, and no worries about being hounded by fans anywhere they went in the city. Now that they’re headed off to the Canadian prairies of Manitoba, while Winnipeg isn’t nearly as big of a city as Atlanta, their worlds are about to be shocked into becoming instant celebrities.

This reality is one that Jets forward Bryan Little was recently made more than aware of. Little, who is opting not to wear his number 10 in Winnipeg out of respect for former Winnipeg Jets star Dale Hawerchuk, got just a taste of what it’ll be like this season and moving forward in his new location as SLAM!’s Paul Friesen shared. Getting hounded in the airport is one thing, dealing with it everywhere you go is something else entirely and Little knows it.

For a guy like Little, who doesn’t crave the limelight, it’ll be different.

“I kind of like flying under the radar,” the 23-year-old said. “It’ll be an adjustment for everyone who’s used to playing in Atlanta. We’re not used to the media, not used to the fans, being in a hockey city like this. It’ll be an adjustment, but probably for the better.”

In the short term, especially.

Over the long haul, that may depend.

Going from being small fish in a huge ocean like Atlanta where there’s the anonymity and the big time nightlife scene was something a lot of players appreciated. In Winnipeg, they’ll be at the top of the food chain in such a small place. At least they won’t have to worry about ever buying a drink again. Even slumping players will have it good… At least for a little while.

This is the one part of the team moving to Winnipeg that will be worth keeping an eye on. The change of going from playing in front of mostly apathetic crowds in Atlanta to a place like Winnipeg where fans will eat, sleep, and breathe everything about how the Jets are doing is going to be a stunning situation for a lot of the guys who spent their whole career with the Thrashers. Guys like Little, Jim Slater, Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, and Tobias Enstrom are all in for an entirely new experience at home. While it’s likely going to help them out with the home ice advantage, it could prove to make life off the ice a bit more tricky for the sudden superstars and kings of the city.

  1. Laura Astorian - Aug 25, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    I know that a lot of the players appreciated going to the mall, going to the grocery store, going wherever without being harassed. Heck, you could bump into injured players in Philips (I ran into Evander Kane a few times) and they were being left alone.

    Part of that is not knowing who they are, and part of that is politeness. Everyone at the game knew who Kane was, but no one wanted to go up and bother him when he was obviously with a group of people.

    Being a bit introverted myself, I’d have a conniption fit if I had to move from a market where I could move about freely and a market where everyone knows who I am. I hope that anxiety doesn’t impact any of the guys’ games at first, but I’m sure they’ll get used to the pressure.

    • chobes68 - Aug 25, 2011 at 8:41 PM

      I agree with the being respectful, and hoping to be left alone, as I’m the same way. However, these guys are celebrities, whether they like it or not, and some people aren’t going to respect boundaries.

      Plus, I’d rather play in a hockey crazed city than the former. Nothing against Atlanta, but hockey isn’t apparently their game.

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