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Winnipeg Jets fans excited for new but different season ahead

The Winnipeg Jets celebrate a goal by Patrik Laine (29) against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker). AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

The Winnipeg Jets will take on the Calgary Flames Thursday night as the team’s abbreviated NHL season gets underway.

However, this season will look very different as there will be no fans to fill the 15,000-seat arena.

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While Manitobans won’t be there to watch the game in person, many fans are just excited their team is back on the ice.

“For now I’m just grateful I can watch,” Greg Burnett told Global News.

Greg Burnett has outfitted his basement with Winnipeg Jets gear. Greg Burnett/Supplied

Burnett is a season ticket holder and self-described “Jets Superfan.” His basement is fully adorned with Jets memorabilia, jerseys and even the ‘A’ from old Winnipeg Arena sign.

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The Winnipeg teacher said he never misses a home game, often taking his mother, wife or one of his four daughters, with him.

“Once hockey gets going I’m pretty much … it’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but our schedule is wrapped around the Jets schedule.”

Burnett said it’s already felt like a long winter with no hockey to watch throughout the week and he’s excited to have his team back in action.

“Without having the Jets playing, this winter has been … it is like Groundhog Day. Always the same thing,” he said. “Now when the Jets start playing I have my week broken up and something to do three or four nights per week.”

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It’s not just a weekly schedule change for the team and its fans … but for one other person who is often considered an extension of the team’s roster.

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“The nerves (are) coming back,” Jets anthem singer Stacey Nattrass said. “I haven’t experienced those in many months.”

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Nattrass said she’s been singing anthems for True North Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the Jets, for two decades.

“It’s a part of my life — it’s just part of who I am,” she said. “It’s such a big part of my day-to-day life and to not have that for ten months, it’s really just shown me how much I’ve missed it.”

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This season though, Nattrass will be singing to just a few dozen people inside as opposed to thousands.

“It will be a very small amount of people actually in the building,” she said. “Strange and different.”

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Read more: Hextall on Hockey: Pressure on for Jets’ Hellebuyck

Her anthem will also be uninterrupted as there will be no fans shouting out the well-known “True North” in the middle.

“That will be weird,” she said with a laugh. “Aww… I’ll miss that.”

For 24-year-old Harlan Abells, having hockey back is a much-needed distraction.

“This is going to be the first time since March, where it kind of, for a few hours a night, will feel normal again,” he said.

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Abells said he is excited to watch ‘any and all games’ regardless of whether the team wins or loses and said it’s those emotional swings between the highs and lows of game moments that he’s missed.

“It’s nice just to have the hometown team to cheer for,” he said.

“It takes your mind off everything else for a few hours.”

“When they win it’s great. When they lose it sucks. But that swing, I really miss that swing.”

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