A lucky group of Manitoba health-care workers received a small token of appreciation for their hard work during the last 15 months of COVID-19: tickets to the Winnipeg Jets second-round playoff opener Wednesday evening.
Melanie MacKinnon and Dr. Marcia Anderson were just two of the 500 fully-vaccinated health-care workers allowed into Bell MTS Place for the first game of the Round 2 playoff series between the hometown Jets and the Montreal Canadiens.
Anderson and MacKinnon are both part of the First Nations Pandemic Rapid Response Team and have played key roles in responding to urgent situations in First Nations communities throughout the province.
“It’s been a difficult year and a half, and this past week has been particularly heavy,” said Anderson from the crowd. “It’s fantastic to be here and celebrate and feel the positive energy and celebrate our team.”
“We’re going to be so loud and we’re so proud,” MacKinnon said. “I actually brought a stick of Halls (throat lozenges) with me because my throat is going to be sore from all the cheering we’ve been doing.
“We have to make 500 people feel like 10,000 people.”
It is the first time fans will be in the building since March 9, 2020.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health-care workers have stepped forward in response to every ask, providing compassionate care to Manitobans during what has been a truly unprecedented health-care event,” said Shared Health’s Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa in a statement.
“This opportunity offers hope for what our vaccinated future can look like. And it offers a small thanks for the dedication, sacrifice and care that our health-care heroes have delivered each and every day.”
Shared Health says more than 6,000 entries were received for a lottery draw which chose the workers who could attend the game.
And the players are happy to have some support after a season of playing in front of silence.
“Just any fans, in general, is awesome,” said Jets forward Mark Scheifele. “To get some health-care workers who have been battling so hard through this pandemic to get them into the first game of Round 2 is pretty awesome, so we’re very excited to have them in the building.”