The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair is held annually every March and is one of the highlights of the social and business calendar in Brandon. Because it takes place at the fairgrounds, and because the Wheat Kings also play at the fairgrounds, and because the Keystone Centre is often used for fair events, this means that the Wheaties are occasionally evicted from their usual home when the fair is running. It hasn't happened often, but in the days before Winnipeg had a WHL team of their own, the Wheat Kings played at the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg as a regular season exhibition.
I went to a Winnipeg Jets game at the MTS Centre (as it was called then) in the fall of 2018. It's located right in the heart of downtown Winnipeg; a red brick building that blends in surprisingly well with its surroundings. The low capacity may have something to do with that - when designing arenas these days, it seems that cities generally go up to 10,000 seats or so for minor league tenants, and then jump to 18,000 seats for the NHL. MTS Centre is one of the rare new buildings that splits the difference, with 15,000 seats for the Jets, and as a result it feels far more intimate than any other NHL arena built since the 1990's.
The Jets game I went to was a blast, loads of fun, and while the building was nothing special otherwise (it felt like a slightly larger Budweiser Gardens or a slightly smaller Air Canada Centre), the low capacity and small size really makes attending a Jets game feel intimate. I'd assume the building had a more cavernous feel to it when the Wheat Kings played there, but holding random junior hockey games at NHL rinks is a longstanding Canadian tradition, and I'm glad Winnipeg took part in that. With the Ice now resident somewhere in the city's southern suburbs and the Jets trying their best to ignore them, one imagines it'll be a long time before MTS Centre ever hosts another WHL game.
Inside MTS Centre
What's It Used for Today?
MTS Centre, now renamed Canada Life Centre, is still home to the NHL's Winnipeg Jets, as well as their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
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