After playing most of last season outside of Manitoba due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Winnipeg Jets have returned to their home arena, the recently renamed Canada Life Centre. True North Sports + Entertainment (TNSE), the Jets’ owners and operators, have kept the pandemic in mind in their planning for the upcoming year.
“We know how important it is for our fans to not only feel safe but to enjoy a comfortable and entertaining experience, and they can look forward, not only to the thrill of live hockey, but to all the fun and excitement that has made Winnipeg Jets games the place to be for the past 10 seasons,” Christina Litz, TNSE’s chief brand and commercial officer, says in an email to The Uniter.
Among the new safety measures are a mask requirement (in place at all times except when eating or drinking), mobile tickets to ensure a contact-free experience and a vaccine requirement. Children under 12 must be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult. Furthermore, all employees have been vaccinated.
Earlier this year, the Canada Life Centre (formerly known as Bell MTS Place) received Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR accreditation, “signifying that the most stringent cleaning, disinfecting and infectious disease-prevention protocols are in place to prevent and manage biorisk situations,” according to a TNSE press release. This does not guarantee a COVID-free environment, however, given that venues with this accreditation have still experienced outbreaks.
“Every aspect of both the guest and employee journey and experience has been contemplated, and True North has been working diligently with the province to ensure alignment with current public-health orders,” Steinunn Parsons, TNSE’s vice-president, guest experience, says in an email to The Uniter.
“We would encourage ticket holders to arrive earlier than usual, not only to see the on-ice projection pre-game show, but to allow extra time, given the extra processes that are in place to confirm vaccination documentation and for security screening,” she says.
If the COVID-19 situation worsens in Manitoba and further restrictions are implemented, it is unclear whether sporting events like these will be exempt or required to comply with new rules. Either way would have substantial implications for the Jets and their relationship with the government. The office of Audrey Gordon, Minister of Health and Seniors Care, has not responded to The Uniter’s request for comment.
Recently, Mark Chipman, chair of TNSE, endorsed Heather Stefanson, one of two candidates vying to become Manitoba’s next premier.
This week, the Jets head west to play three pre-season games in Edmonton (Oct. 2 at 6 p.m.), Vancouver (Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.) and Calgary (Oct. 8 at p.m.). They then host the Calgary Flames (Oct. at 7 p.m.). They will kick off the regular season in Anaheim (Oct. 13 at 9 p.m.) before the two teams meet again in Winnipeg for the Jets’ home opener (Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.).
“It’s not just the fans who are excited, but our entire True North team can’t wait to experience the community of a Winnipeg Jets game live and get back to what they do best in executing an amazing in-game experience, whether behind the scenes or on gameday with fans,” Litz says.
Published in Volume 76, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2021)