If you’re a university student from Newcastle, England, how on earth do you become a Winnipeg Jets fan?
For Ben Gray, it was a documentary on the return of NHL hockey to the city.
“It was just amazing to see how it affected the whole city. The fans flooding the streets, season tickets being sold out in minutes,” Gray said.
“I just thought it was unreal how much it meant to these people. I never thought a team would mean so much to a city.”
Since then, the forensics science student has followed the team closely, which isn’t easy, since a 7 p.m. central start in Winnipeg is midnight in England.
Seeing a game live was the ultimate dream, though getting to North America wasn’t in the cards.
So when it was announced that the Jets would be playing two games in Finland, Gray had to get tickets.
“I had two laptops, tablets, phones open on the website, trying to get tickets. Got them for the Friday game. I can’t wait! It’s a big difference watching them on TV to watching in person.”
As for Gray’s favourite player, his answer might surprise you.
“Adam Lowry. Works hard, doesn’t get all the points like Laine and Wheeler but grinds and, without him and his line, we would never have gotten to where we got to last season.”
Gray’s love of hockey has begun to spread to his group of friends, who got hooked by taking in a Nottingham Panthers (Elite Hockey League) game in England.
“It was an amazing game, it was 4-3, came from 3-1 down. After that, they were all on board, wanting to watch games,” Gray said.
“I made them watch the Arizona game a couple weeks ago, and they loved it again. They’re all starting to pick their own team, following teams on social media, a couple of Jets fans.”
Gray is thrilled that hockey is catching on with his friend group, and hopes that more people in England fall in love with the game.
“It’s just a really good sport to follow. It’s intense and a lot of people are not aware of how good a sport it is. It’s infectious and it’s amazing.”