The Winnipeg “White Out”
The 1985 Stanley Cup playoffs saw the birth of a renowned Winnipeg Jets tradition. The Jets finished fourth overall in the 21-team NHL and second in the Smythe Division, where they met their hated rivals, the Calgary Flames. In response to the “C of Red” in Calgary, where fans were asked to come to the Saddledome wearing red, the Jets countered with a call for their fans to wear white. Some fans responded and came to the Winnipeg Arena for Game 1 adorned in white to see the Jets take the first two games of the best-of-five series before the series shifted to Calgary. Despite losing star centerman Dale Hawerchuk to a vicious cross-check courtesy of Flames' defenseman Jamie Macoun in Game 3, the Jets rebounded to win Game 4 and capture their first NHL playoff series victory. Sadly, in the next round, the Jets again bowed out meekly to the Edmonton Oilers.
Two years later, the “White Out” took hold as the Jets met the Flames in the first round for the third consecutive season. The Jets won the best-of-seven series four games to two and a tradition had been established.
The “White Out” continued through the Jets' final season in 1995-1996 and though the fans enthusiastically embraced the ritual, the team would never again win another playoff series. A series of heartbreaking collapses plagued the Jets in front of their white-clad fans and some began to refer to the White Out as a White Curse.
Though the Jets are gone forever, the “White Out” has taken on a life of its own. The tradition has been copied in numerous other NHL cities, but nowhere with the enthusiasm that it had in Winnipeg with the Jets. Few remember where this tradition started, but Winnipeggers can watch from afar with pride that they've at least left something positive behind in the NHL, even if only we know it. The "White Out" continued in Winnipeg with considerably less interest for the Mark Chipman Moose, until fans finally gave up on it in the 2002 playoffs, much like Winnipeggers have long since given up on his Moose themselves.
Unfortunately, much to the chagrin of many Jets fans to this day, one of the places where this tradition has been copied is in Glendale, home of the Arizona Screaming Weasels, the relocated Jets franchise. Seeing the sea of white in Arizona is enough to get any true Jets fan's blood boiling as we watch them to cling to a past that is not theirs rather than making traditions that are meaningful to them. The franchise might actually succeed once they choose to break free from a legacy of playoff failures in a place that few in Arizona could point out on a map.