WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Be sure to check out my conversation in Friday' paper with Sabres assistant coach Teppo Numminen about his time here as a member of the Jets from 1988-1996. (If you read this post earlier, it's in Friday's paper, not today's. All these days on the road and it's easy to lose track).
Numminen had fond memories of the fans and the old Winnipeg Arena and admitted the players couldn't actually believe the Jets were really moving, even as they were preparing for their final playoff game against Detroit in '96.
One thing Numminen also recalled -- and a point also made by Danny Gare and anyone else who I talked to that got to Jets' now-imploded old home -- was the large mural of Queen Elizabeth II that hung from one end of the building (left--click for a bigger view) between the Canadian and U.S. flags and became its signature element.
Visiting players often spent warmups trying to shoot pucks at the Queen's face and Gare and I broke up laughing Wednesday when Gare recounted a story on the air with Rick Jeanneret in the mid-90s when a puck deflected into the mural during a game. "IT HIT THE QUEEN, IT HIT THE QUEEN" was Jeanneret's call, with Gare's high-pitched impression hard to duplicate here.
News compatriot Budd Bailey was on the Sabres beat in the mid-90s and penned a welcome back to the NHL to Winnipeg on his personal blog in May when it was announced that the Atlanta Thrashers were moving to Manitoba. Also included with the entry and reprinted here is a picture of Bailey at center ice with the Queen behind him. As Bailey explained it, he and former Sabres announcer Pete Weber went out there and took pictures of each other with the Queen for posterity.
Where's the Queen now? She's not in the MTS Centre, although many Jets fans certainly wanted her there. This story from last spring said she was in a warehouse in Ontario.