MEDICINE HAT, AB – Four teams remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, but one group is garnering much of the attention here in Canada.
Support for the Winnipeg Jets has been growing with every playoff victory, as more and more fans hop on the bandwagon.
For lifelong supporters like Gordon Bennett however, this playoff run has been a long time coming.
“The Jets are a working team,” said Bennett. “Going back many years ago to the WHA, the Jets just didn't have the drive that the new Winnipeg Jets have and it's just fantastic to see.”
As of Tuesday, the Jets are seven wins away from their first ever Stanley Cup championship and are in the midst of their best season since joining the NHL in 1979.
It’s fantastic news for local bars like the Silver Buckle as well, who have seen a spike in customers watching playoff games, according to night manager Lael Zeleny.
“It's good, I'm not going to lie,” said Zeleny. “The further the Canadian teams go, the better it is for us. People want to get behind a Canadian team, so the more there are the better.”
Winnipeg is hoping to becoming the first Canadian team to drink out of the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.
Zeleny said after decades of waiting for the Cup to return north of the border, Canadians are itching for a winning team.
“A couple of years ago when the Oilers went into the second round we saw a ton of Oilers fans in here, more than normal right?” he said. “So this year, we're seeing a lot more Winnipeg fans. So, it always helps when it's an Alberta team, but being closer definitely isn't a bad thing.”
But not everyone is born a Jets fan, with many hopping on the team’s bandwagon over the last few weeks, including Brandon Gacek.
“A lot of Canadian captains have won the Cup on American teams, so that's been kind of cool,” said Gacek. “But, it would be nice to see a Canadian team to win it for once.”
A Montreal supporter, Gacek isn’t shy about cheering for the Jets with his Canadiens out of the playoff picture.
“If you pick one team I think it's okay, but if you're going to hop from team to team... you'd like to see one team do good,” he said. “I like Scheifele on the Jets, that's why I picked them.”
It’s a different feeling for die hard Jets fans like Bennett however, knowing the impact that a Stanley Cup victory would have.
“I'm 75, if I didn't make another year I would be the happiest guy in the world,” he said.
Winnipeg and the Vegas Golden Knights are tied 1-1 in their best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series, with Game 3 going Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
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