Exchange Patrol Rory Mitchell plays between the pipes in the Exchange District for the Jets’ season opener. /LUKE REMPEL


Hundreds of excited hockey fans gathered at The Cube to watch the Winnipeg Jets home opener live on a 15-foot screen.

The crowd’s enthusiasm slowly died as the Toronto Maple Leafs increased their lead over the Jets. The Jets ended up losing 7-2 to the Maple Leafs, but fans still enjoyed the outdoor event.

The Exchange District Business Improvement Zone, RRC Student’s Association, Bodegoes, and King and Bannatyne collaborated to host the third annual Jets home opener at The Cube. They originally displayed the Jets home opener in the fall of 2015 with the hopes that it could become a spot for the city to come during the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Jets have not made the playoffs since the 2014-15 season.

“It’s a great idea and a nice site for it.” said Tim Armstrong, member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “I would totally come for the playoffs.”

Nick Van Seggelen is a managing partner at Bodegoes and attended RRC for Business and Administration in 2007. Van Seggelen and Mike Del Buono, owner of King and Bannatyne came up with the idea for the event and approached the RRC Student’s Association. The RRCSA supplied the 15-foot screen and other equipment.

“We were inspired by the big cities that display their playoff games outside their arenas for crowds to watch. We thought we could do that in Winnipeg,” said Van Seggelen.

Before the puck dropped, there were hockey skills competitions including both an accuracy and hardest slap shot competition, measured by radar gun. Various Exchange District businesses donated prizes for the winners.

The event was free for the public, but fans could purchase hot chocolate, popcorn, and 50/50 tickets with all proceeds being donated to KidSport Winnipeg.

The event also brought in plenty of sales to the surrounding Exchange District businesses. Many fans could be seen watching the game with food and drink from nearby restaurants and cafes, and groups rushed to the King’s Head Pub in between periods.

Organizers showed they were prepared for the chilly night by setting up fire pits for fans to keep warm.

The event’s Facebook page shows that 252 went. Van Seggelen said the crowd was definitely bigger than last year’s home opener at The Cube. If the Jets end their two-year playoff drought this season, an even larger crowd might be gathering in Old Market Square this spring.