Sean O'Donnell didn't see any of the Winnipeg Jets' home debut on Sunday, but he's got a pretty good idea of how the crowd reacted.
"I played for the (Minnesota) Wild that first year (in 2000) and the fans were so excited to have hockey back," the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman said. "We didn't have a great team but it didn't matter if we lost every game 10-0. They were so happy to have us back. It's a passion. I can imagine because I remember Minnesota."
And that's pretty much how the Jets, who will play the Blackhawks on Thursday, were received in their first home game: they got beat badly but it didn't matter. The fans, very few of whom left despite the blowout, gave their new Jets a standing ovation.
The city if Winnipeg is embracing its second chance at having an NHL squad. It was tough for them losing the original Jets in the mid 1990s, when exorbitant salaries were too much for the small-market team to handle. They wanted that again.
That was evident in September 2010, when the Blackhawks played a preseason game there against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena was packed, most fans backing the Blackhawks and plenty wearing the sweater of city native Jonathan Toews. And now Winnipeg can enjoy it all season long again.
For those who played against the old Jets, it was a welcome sight.
"You can tell how excited they are, be it at the draft or going into the (opening) game. Even getting beat at home the support is there," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "These guys live and breathe it every day. When we played that preseason game last year, there was definitely appetite of wishful thinking of getting a team. And it transpired in a positive way."
Winnipeg is part of the hockey landscape again. Yes, the team struggled out of the gate. But they are in a city that wanted hockey and will actually put butts in the seats for the sport.
"It's good to have any hockey market that can support a franchise," O'Donnell said. "As many teams as you can get in those markets, it's good for the game."
The big 4-0
Blackhawks defenseman Sean O'Donnell will celebrate his 40th birthday on Thursday. Patrick Sharp said they'll be sure to get the veteran something.
"We were joking earlier we're going to get a contact list of everyone's phone numbers except instead of the guys in the room it'll be our parents numbers so he has lots of people to hang out with after the games," Patrick Sharp said.
Corey Crawford (groin) missed a second day of practice but Quenneville anticipates him practicing Wednesday. He's still expected to start against Winnipeg on Thursday.
Ben Smith (concussion) practiced with the team on Tuesday. And while he wasn't cleared for contact yet, Quenneville thinks it could happen soon.
"Benny looked as good as I've seen him (on Tuesday) and felt good too. So he's real close to getting into the game," Quenneville said.
Viktor Stalberg (left knee) skated on his own on Tuesday and could join the Blackhawks practice on Wednesday.
Former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien will be part of the Jets' lineup when they play the Blackhawks on Thursday. It will be the first game on the United Center ice for both since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.
Daniel Carcillo was once again teamed with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa at Tuesday's practice.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information