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Jet Setters

- December 29th, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. – Whenever the Maple Leafs travel to western Canada, a electric buzz immediately ripples through the host city.

Whether it be Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver, a visit by the Leafs becomes an event throughout the community; partially because they play in those rinks just once per season; partially because of the number of Toronto fans who live in those places.

Keeping that in mind, the environment surrounding Toronto’s game in Winnipeg on Saturday night will be crazier than usual.

Forget, for a moment, that it will be New Years’ Eve. No, the bigger story is that the Leafs will be playing in Winnipeg for the first time in almost 16 years.

Indeed, the Leafs have not competed in a regular season game in Winnipeg since Feb. 28, 1996 when they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Jets at the old WInnipeg Arena.

Former Leaf Ed Olczyk led the way for the Jets in that victory, scoring twice and adding an assist. Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhamnov added singles for Winnipeg while Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 37 of 40 Toronto shots.

Mats Sundin, Dave Andreychuk and Todd Warriner replied for the Leafs while Felix Potvin was saddled with the loss.

Come Saturday, more than 1-1/2 decades later, the Leafs once again will step onto Winnipeg ice.

Whichever team wins, this much is certain: It will be some kind of party.

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