Once mainstays of the Atlanta Thrashers, players like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ondrej Pavelec are now wearing Jets colours after the team relocated to Winnipeg in 2011. As the Jets get ready to bring NHL playoff hockey back to their jubilant fan base in Winnipeg for the first time in almost two decades, the remaining Thrashers fans can only look on with mixed emotions.
"They're still hurting that we lost our NHL franchise here, and that's going to be tough for that to go away," said Chris Ciovacco, who administers a Thrashers fan page on Facebook.
"It's nice to see the (Winnipeg) stands full and it's nice to see the players playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd ... but I'd be lying if I didn't have some fear of the pain that we would see. Let's say the Jets run the table and shock everybody and win the (Stanley) Cup this year. It would be difficult to see them skate around the ice with the Cup, knowing that it was possible for that to happen here."
The Jets entry into the playoffs has resulted in fan frenzy in Manitoba's capital. The night the Jets clinched a playoff spot, hundreds of fans took to the city's biggest intersection at Portage Ave. and Main St. to celebrate.
Fans have snapped up special all-white clothing from the tam's official store. Politicians have been sporting Jets jerseys. A Winnipeg hospital put up a photo on Twitter of a new baby boy born this week named Jett by his parents.
Making the playoffs may not seem like much in a league where more than half the teams qualify, but Jets fans have been waiting 19 years for playoff hockey. Tickets for the first playoff game in Winnipeg — next Monday — were being offered for more than $800 on Stubhub. One post on Kijiji offered three tickets in exchange for cash or "a night with your gf/wife as a trade".
Bars and some theatres in Winnipeg were planning to show Thursday's game from Anaheim on big screens.
Back in Atlanta, Ciovacco says many Thrashers fans have moved on and cheer for a variety of teams. But some still feel an affinity for their former hometown stars.
"We're happy for some of the players that have done well ... it's good to see them do well and I'm happy for them making the playoffs. Will we be rooting hard for the Jets? That'd probably be difficult to say."