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‘The further you go, the more it stings when it ends’: Mark Chipman reflects on Jets playoff run

File photo of Mark Chipman.
File photo of Mark Chipman. John Woods / The Canadian Press

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

The commonly cited line from Dr. Seuss is a refrain many in Winnipeg are repeating after the Jets’ playoff run met a sudden end Sunday afternoon.

It’s a lovely thought, but it’s easier said than done, especially if you’re Mark Chipman, Chairman of True North Sports + Entertainment.

“It’s still stinging, I imagine it will for a while,” Chipman told 680 CJOB. “Obviously we’re very grateful that we got to go as far as we did, but the further you go, the more it stings when it ends. We’ll dust ourselves off here. There’s lots of work to be done, and hopefully that’ll take our minds off the fact that the season ended so abruptly.”

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Chipman said the organization wasn’t surprised that the Jets made big strides this season, but he’s still hearing from friends all over about how blown away they are by the way Winnipeg rallied around the Jets this spring.

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“What’s been noticed the most is how passionate our community and our fans are for the game and for our team. The number of texts and emails I get from friends of mine that are no longer living here, the theme has been absolutely the same: how proud people are to call Winnipeg home, to be walking a little bit more upright wherever they are over the past five-and-a-half weeks.”

For anyone watching from afar, one of the lasting memories of this spring will be the thousands of people that went downtown just to watch the game outside, which is something True North had in mind for the plaza of True North Square, construction of which is slated to be finished by 2020.

“It’s perfectly suited for hosting that kind of event, though I have to tell you, when we designed it, no one was contemplating 20,000 people coming downtown,” Chipman admitted.

“Both the viewing parties when we were on the road and the outdoor event just allowed a whole bunch more people access to what was going on with our team. NHL hockey is not an inexpensive pastime for people. To be able to provide access to so many more fans was really, really gratifying.”

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Long playoff run nixes arena improvements

From True North’s perspective, one small downside of the Jets deep run is the impact it has had on making tweaks to Bell MTS Place.

“We had some plans to do a bunch more work in the public spaces, but the time-frame in which to do it got too compressed. When we do these projects, we really only have a few months to do them,” Chipman explained.

“The next things people will see is more public amenity space that will be improved and upgraded. Some of the other things are not things that people would necessarily see, more at ice level, functioning things for staff and players, etc.”

This summer will be unlike any other in the history of the team: sky-high expectations combined with a high payroll that will stretch the limit of the salary cap. But Chipman isn’t worried.

“We’ll be well over $100 million Canadian. But fortunately the collective bargaining agreement that we operate under has a built-in mechanism for a market like ours that, through cost-redistribution, really offsets a great deal of that foreign exchange risk. A lot of our revenue comes in US dollars. Long story short, we’re on very solid footing and we will be for many years to come.”

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