The Winnipeg Jets are on a playoff run. Yet, the streets surrounding Bell MTS Place are mostly empty.
When the Jets finished their first-round series sweep against the Edmonton Oilers last week, some fans hopped into their vehicles and drove around the downtown rink, honking horns in celebration.
But, amidst COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on gathering, the action pales in comparison to what's been seen and heard in recent NHL postseasons. It's become tradition this time of year for thousands of fans dressed in white to not only pack the arena but also the local streets for the iconic Whiteout parties.
Alyssa Houde, who runs the Jets Centric Podcast, wishes it was safe for Jets supporters to stand shoulder to shoulder.
However, if she's being honest, even if pandemic rules were lifted, you wouldn't find her standing on Graham Avenue watching the playoff action on a big screen.
"I went to one street party in 2018, and I hated it. I left within 10 minutes because I couldn't see the game," the 19-year-old said with a laugh.
"I really like watching the game from an analytical perspective. It's obviously for enjoyment, but I like being really focused on the game, and it's difficult to do at the street party."
Houde does, however, miss being inside the arena. If things were normal, she'd try to snag tickets to a playoff game or two — and she'd be proudly wearing a Pierre-Luc Dubois jersey.
"I went to one street party in 2018, and I hated it. I left within 10 minutes because I couldn't see the game." — Alyssa Houde
"Dubois has been like my favourite player in the NHL for like four years, which is so funny... When he got traded here I was literally losing my marbles, because you were also trading one of my favourite players (Patrik Laine) to get him," Houde said.
Instead, she'll be watching the entire 2021 postseason from her family home in St. François Xavier.
Like most "True North!" shouters, Houde has had to come up with other ways to enjoy the playoff ride with people outside of her household.
Jets Centric started doing live broadcasts during game intermissions on Twitter Spaces as a way for fans to rant, rave, and/or applaud together about what's happening on the ice.
"With intermissions, the way it goes is you have a player say, 'We gotta get pucks deep and be harder on our sticks' kind of thing, and then you have a Sportsnet panel talk about four games at once and then a ton of commercials. So, I sit down and watch the game with my family, then I run to my room during intermission and put on my Twitter Spaces," Houde said.
"There's four or five of us that will go on, we'll invite random people to come join us, and we'll have 60 people or so that will listen... It's almost the next best thing to the environment of all being in-person at the bar.'"
If you tune into Jets Centric, you can leave your volume at a normal level, but if you click one of Jesse Pollock's videos on social media, you might want to turn it down a couple notches first.
Pollock is a 28-year-old diehard Jets fan who grew up in Winnipeg and now lives in Toronto, as he landed his dream job of content creator for TSN.
THAT’S A SWEEP BABY �������� LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/jlTxImLiM6— Jesse Pollock (@jpolly22) May 25, 2021
He returned home in 2018 to cover Winnipeg's playoff buzz for TSN, but now he's had to settle for watching from afar. He's more than 2,000 kilometres away, but people in the River City might still be able to hear him as Pollock recorded his reaction to all three of the Jets' overtime victories over the Oilers.
Screaming at the top of his lungs, spit flying, Pollock, surprisingly, hasn't been evicted from his apartment yet. His most recent video, which features Pollock holding a broom, of course, hollering after the Game 4 victory, has nearly 120,000 views on Twitter.
"Luckily, we got a corner apartment, so we only have to worry about one neighbour and they're pretty chill... My voice is a little hoarse right now. I'm still recovering... I'm a pretty loud guy in general and I really put my heart into everything I do," Pollock said.
"What I do with these videos is you're seeing is my first reaction. When I'm seeing the overtime games, my phone's in my hands and I'm scrambling to unlock my phone and my heart is racing and I just let it all out." — Jesse Pollock
"What I do with these videos is you're seeing is my first reaction. When I'm seeing the overtime games, my phone's in my hands and I'm scrambling to unlock my phone and my heart is racing and I just let it all out."
And if the Jets somehow make it all the way to the Stanley Cup final?
It's not as ideal as a trip to Portage and Main, but you wouldn't find any Jets fan complaining.
"I would be on the street going absolutely nuts. I would be on the street going insane and literally just running around like a wild man," Pollock said.
"I'd paint my body and try to get as much content up for Jets fans to consume, because I really want Jets fans to be excited right now," he said.
"It's hard without fans (at the games) and I want them to have a reason to look at something and laugh and go, 'Oh yeah, let's go Jets, baby.'
"A lot of these situations, you just need to live out the moment, but I would run literally all over the place, yelling, with a massive Winnipeg flag. I'd just celebrate by myself.'"
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.