There it was: proof. After Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup this month, I went to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's home page to check out their coverage. The main image showed Sidney Crosby hoisting the cup, and behind the captain a sea of applauding fans in jerseys of Penguin white and Red Wing red - with one exception, about four rows up and to the left. That was the guy in the Winnipeg Jets jersey. The sea-blue shirt jumped out at me, as a former Winnipegger.
It made me feel, for one brief and shining moment, like it was the Jets who had captured the cup. But who was this man and why was he wearing my shirt? Was he being ironic? Was he deluded? Was this a long-running protest against the Jets' move to Phoenix, Arizona 13 bitter years ago? Was he a trivia buff cleverly alluding to the fact that the Penguins and, later, the Jets began as major-league franchises with the same man as captain, that being Ab McDonald, who signed an autograph for me in 1972 and is therefore a good man?
Absence makes the shirt grow stronger: and so I choose to believe the anonymous fan is a Jets supporter who rues the team's flight to Arizona and his jersey is a protest vote against this transplant that never took. The Phoenix Coyotes are bankrupt and seem destined to leave the desert, if not this season then next. But even die hard Jets fans must now accept that when the Phoenix franchise moves, it will not be to Winnipeg.
The team are dead. Long live the jersey.