In October, I headed east to root for my Leafs and explore Winnipeg. Full disclosure: I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Peg, but the city won me over. My four-day visit flew by all too quickly and I’ll have to head back soon to complete the urban exploration.
In a future post, I’ll go into more detail about what to see and do in Winnipeg. Meanwhile, if hockey isn’t your thing, wet your Winterpeg appetite by scrolling to the bottom of this post for some of the non-hockey highlights of my visit.
As any of my regular readers will know, I love both travel and hockey, and I’m a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. So I’ve combined my passions by setting a goal of seeing them hit the ice in a different city each year. (Eventually, I want to see the Leafs play in every NHL franchise.)
One thing I did know beforehand was that Winnipeggers love them some hockey. And the city has a interesting history with pro teams: The Peg lost its NHL hockey team back in 1996. Then in 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers were sold, relocated to Winnipeg and the Jets returned. Seems like that decade and a half dry spell created an insatiable thirst among Winnipeg fans: just check out the insanity of their “whiteout” last year in the playoffs for proof positive.
After a multi-hour yet too-brief visit to the Manitoba museum (more deets below), I grabbed a quick pre-game meal at Kings Head, based on the recommendation of a fellow hockey fan! From there it was just a short walk to the arena, despite an unplanned detour when I briefly lost my way. Even with that short Magical Mystery Tour, I got to the rink early enough to line up for warm-ups. (If you’re after a spot right along the glass, do get there early, because Leafs Nation shows up in force.)
Bell MTS Place, the home of the Jets, is located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. While this means plenty of options for food and lodging, there can still be line-ups on game days, so allow extra time for fueling your fan experience. For an NHL rink, the MTS is on the small side, so when games are sold out, as this Leafs game was, navigating the halls at intermission can be a close-packed challenge. By not dawdling, you should still be able to grab a quick bathroom break and a drink, but you may not be able to make it to the other side and get back for puck drop!
I’ve heard the atmosphere at MTS Place is one of best in the league. During the Canadian anthem the fans all yell “True North.” During the game, the arena rang with chants of “Go, Jets Go!” and the responses of “Go, Leafs Go!” The din when the Jets scored was incredible; it made me wonder how they could possibly up the noise level when the home team wins a whole game. Since the Leafs romped to victory, I didn’t find out this time, but I did learn that the Bell MTS is one great barn!
My particular intermission quests were beer and a warm-up puck, but if you are looking for a mid-game meal, check out their Jumbo Jet Dog (a massive hot dog that you can fix with all the usual trimmings, plus bacon bits, pierogi pieces, chilli or nacho cheese). The couple next to me enjoyed theirs while skillfully avoiding spills on their jerseys. That was almost as impressive as the puck handling on the ice below. No personal arena food reviews this time as I was already full from dinner and was going out after the game.
And back to the game! Check out the Game in Six recap from the Leafs below! Much more exciting than me providing a play by play!
Being surrounded by hordes of fellow Leafs fans really upped the fun and energy level for me. We rejoiced as Kadri scored his first goal of the season and delighted in the fact that the Leafs maintained their undefeated on the road streak. Though every city must have its share of unsportsmanlike fans, all the Jets supporters I personally met were friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to exchange friendly banter. We were made to feel very welcome in our rival’s barn.
After the game, I initially tried to check out a couple of nearby places but was deterred by the huge crowds. So, together with new found Leafs fans, I headed back to Johnny G’s Restaurant in the Exchange district to celebrate our team’s triumph.
What to do when you’re in town:
Manitoba Museum – The museum’s regular and rotating exhibits are reason enough to visit, with excellent displays on provincial and national history. But currently there’s the added attraction of Hockey: The Stories Behind Our Passion. They did a wonderful job with this exhibit, which includes artifacts such as the earliest known hockey stick, Wayne Gretzky’s game-worn skates from his scoring streak in 1983-1984 and even Shania Twain’s sequined Montreal Canadiens outfit, plus much more. But it’s only in town till January 13, 2019 so don’t delay.
Thermëa – a Nordik spa with two steam rooms, four saunas, rest areas (including heated hammocks), cold plunge pools and a restaurant on site. Plan to spend the day here. After arriving in the late morning, I was there for seven hours, repeating the thermal cycle and taking a break or a meal. It’s only 8 km from downtown Winnipeg. I got there hassle-free in a Tapp car, which is Winnipeg’s local version of an Uber or Lyft ride
Canadian Museum for Human Rights – A must visit when in Winnipeg, located at The Forks. I spent an entire day there as this is the only way to begin to process the sheer volume of information and the deep reflection provoked by the interactive displays. Despite its intense subject matter, the museum itself is beautiful, combining many natural elements. I recommend taking the tour first, as the guides do a wonderful job of providing an overview of this vast field. After the tour, go back to explore in depth exhibits such as What Are Human Rights?, Protecting Rights in Canada, and Examining the Holocaust. If you aren’t scared of heights, walk or take the elevator to the Israel Asper Tower of Hope for a panoramic view of Winnipeg.
- Forks – A must! Get a flight of beer to sample a few of Manitoba’s local craft beers at the Common. Try Pickerel fish and chips at Fergie’s, Heroshima at the KYU Grill, plus plenty of more. I needed more time here alone but don’t forget to check upstairs where I picked up some candles at Coal and Canary and macaroons at Jenna Rae.
- Clementine Cafe – The Smoked Arctic Char was the best non-egg breakfast I’ve had! I only had a chance to eat here once but want to return.
- Forth Cafe – Located close to my accommodation, it became my go-to coffee and grab a quick bite place. Excellent coffee.
- Parlour Coffee – Friendly, cute cafe that doesn’t have a wifi or a phone to allow you to unplug, ask for their free map of the city with their personal recommendations.