The Oakville community has triumphed over the competition to become the winners of the 2023 Winnipeg Jets Town Takeover contest.
This means a group of Jets alumni will make their way to town to spend time with the students of Oakville School and attend a community viewing of Winnipeg vs the Minnesota Wild on April 11th. Grade 4 teacher Ashley Tully says the contest really brought the community together.
"It spread like wildfire. I can't tell you how many messages I got from random people who I barely see or talk to but it's bringing so many different groups of people together," Tully explains. "I was telling the gentleman who called to give us the good news that it's about the hockey but more than that, it's about the passion and that has brought this community together. In the school, it was insane, and throughout the community, it was the same thing."
Oakville was up against Beausejour and Morden in the finals of the contest and were definitely the underdogs. French teacher, and one of the biggest Jet fans in Manitoba, Greg Burnett, says they overcame the odds very similar to how the Jets had to when they rejoined the NHL.
"We were kind of a representation of the Jets in the NHL. Before the Jets came back, there was a lot of negativity around saying, 'The Jets will never come back, (Winnipeg) is too small, blah, blah blah.' But, of course, we beat the odds and now are a thriving NHL team," Burnett continues. "Same with the community of Oakville. We're much smaller than our competitors but what we lack in numbers, we more than makeup for in passion and heart."
He adds they couldn't have done this alone, giving credit to their allies in Portage and the other surrounding communities who cast a vote.
Tully says the victory was unexpected.
"I'll be honest, it was super surprising. I think people from far and wide, not just Oakville voted for us. People really pushed it in their own lives, no matter if they were a hockey parent, a parent with a student at the school, or someone that happens to know Mr. Burnett. Anybody and everybody was truly rooting for the underdog of our small town, and it was beautiful to see."
Tully notes it took a lot of effort to make this a reality.
"We were telling anybody and everybody. A lot of it was through social media and becoming that pain in everyone's butt saying, 'Please vote today, please vote today.' And sending out mass texts and everything like that. It took just a little bit of spirit. It was wonderful to see," Tully continues. "To be honest, at one point, I was balling thinking, 'Our community is wonderful. I always knew that.' This just puts us on the map. People aren't going to mistake us for Oakville, Ontario anymore. They're going to know where Oakville, Manitoba is."
Burnett shares that there were some doubters but he says there's never harm in trying and being hopeful.
"I heard a couple of students say, and I'm sure this went for a lot of people as well, 'What's the point of voting every day? We're not going to win anyway.' That's kind of like the attitude that was prevalent before the Jets came back. It was 'Why get your hopes up? It's never going to happen.' Unless you go out and do it, you never know. It's like the old saying, 'Expect the worst and hope for the best.' This is another example of good things happening when you put your best foot forward."
Benny, Mickey Moose, and a group of Jets alumni will invade Oakville on April 11, 2023.