© Geoff Brookes
Almost 3 months ago, I argued that the Winnipeg Jets could not afford to lose Dustin Byfuglien, whether by trade or free agency, in terms of the effect this would have on the psychology of Jets fans.
“If we lose Byfuglien, it’s like opening a wound. It’s like losing Nilsson, Hedberg, Hawerchuk, Housley and Selanne, all over again.”
The Winnipeg Jets management finally made the right call. They remembered that they are “True North Sports and **Entertainment**”. It was perhaps foolish, if not unconscionable, to ask the season ticket holders with the most expensive tickets to renew their season tickets right now, without the Jets simultaneously showing their commitment to their fans.
After 4 1/2 seasons of his rugged style –
-holding rival agitators at arm’s length like rag dolls;
-making rink long rushes;
-unleashing a blistering shot;
-delivering crushing hits (the super Mario YouTube video is a favourite);
-after bringing jets fans to their feet time after time;
He’s earned the love of Jets fans everywhere
Moreover, his play has improved dramatically since Paul Maurice recalled him to full time duty on the blue line (even if Buff has PoMo’s permission to roam to all areas of the ice). Buff even acknowledged this in his interview after his new contract was announced, stating that he has learned to be more careful in his freelance work, since Maurice restored him to his favourite position.
Buff talking about his new contract:
On a team that seems to shoot into the goalie’s crest all too often, Buff seems to play hockey like a good pool player. It seems effortless for Buff, when he casually flips a shot high to the top corner, when others might slide a shot along the ice and right into the goalie’s extended pads. He seems to be playing a kind of hockey-billiards at times, surprising net minders with shots that catch them moving the wrong way, or slip behind them on the near side (remember the game winning goal against the Flames, early in this season?).
And so, the normally rabid Jets fans seemed to be idling their engines this year, dreading the possibility that they would be damned to a kind of “groundhog day”, repeating cycles of development mixed with regression (aka “rebuilding”).
When the news of his contract extension finally broke Monday afternoon, it was like a great exhale, with fans pouring out their joy, relief and support. Jets Twitter posts trumpeted the news.
At this point, we could have 2 Manitoba statutory holidays in February, on consecutive Mondays. If the government preferred the milquetoast “family day” to the historically adventurous “Louis Riel day”, they could go for something a little in between… like “Buff’s Best Ice Fishing Adventure day”.
If he didn’t dislike the off-ice public spotlight, he could probably win an electoral landslide in the provincial election, without even being an official candidate.
Whatever it was that led Chevy to shift his focus to signing Buff, apparently in mid-January, we can be thankful that it happened. And without further ado, let us remember to honour the big man at the next home game on Thursday.
As preparation, let us remember the “33rd Buff”:
Buff is my D-man; I shall not waver
He makes Kings flip over like orange pylons,
He leadeth me into foreign arenas
He makes me shout “True North” for our patron saint’s name’s sake
He restoreth my blue line
Yea, though I walk through the valleys of the Southwest, I shall fear no Coyotes,
Thy stick and thy shot, they comfort me
Thou makest rag dolls out of my enemies
Thou fill my cup with Buds, and Lord Stanley’s Cup runneth over
Surely the playoffs will include us all the days of our lives
And we shall dwell in the house of Lord Stanley forever