An elderly stranger’s passion for the Winnipeg Jets impressed a couple of hockey fans so much they made sure she got to see her first-ever game this past weekend.
Isabelle McCaffrey, 71, has been a hockey fan her entire life and a fierce follower of the Jets since she moved to Winnipeg from Kelowna, B.C., 26 years ago. But she could never afford to see a game on her pension.
“Money, money always was the issue,” she said. “And who wants to go by themselves? I’d get lost in that building. I wouldn’t know what door to go through.”
That all changed after she struck up a conversation with Steve Kush and his friend Danny Lavigne in an A&W last week.
The friends from Pine Falls, about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, were grabbing a bite after the Jets–L.A. Kings game on March 20 when McCaffrey called out to them.
Kush was wearing a Kings jersey, so she piped up and jokingly said, “You’re not welcome here. You’ve got to go home.”
“I had to laugh. The Jets are my other favourite team, so I just had to chuckle,” Kush said.
The three of them hit it off immediately.
“This sweet elderly lady … knew more about the game we just watched live than any of us did,” Kush posted on his Facebook page. “She knew all the players by name and where they were from in the world.”
After learning of her financial constraints, Kush and Lavigne knew they had to get their new friend to Bell MTS Place.
It’s not very often you get young guys who can be bothered with an old lady.– Isabelle McCaffrey
“She was so deserving, so we grouped up and bought her tickets to a divisional game against Nashville as she said she wanted to see the Jets kick Nashville’s [butt],” Kush wrote.
The pair could only get two tickets to the March 25 game, so they decided Lavigne would attend with McCaffrey.
“We called her up and I told her we had tickets and asked if she wanted to go. And everything worked out,” said Lavigne. “It was pretty awesome.”
McCaffrey was delighted.
“I’m very blessed. It’s fate that brought us together,” she said. “It’s not very often you get young guys who can be bothered with an old lady. I mean, that in itself, it’s got to be faith.”
She then told the guys she was looking forward to seeing her favourite player, Patrik Laine, because “he’s got a wicked shot.”
Even though it was Lavigne escorting McCaffrey, both friends made the trip from Pine Falls to meet up with her on the day of the game, and they even brought her a Jets jersey to wear.
And what a game it was. The Jets clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 5–4 shootout win over the league-leading Nashville Predators.
It didn’t start that way though. The Jets were outshot 15–4 and outscored 2–0.
“I looked at Isabelle and she was like, ‘They’re going to win,'” Lavigne said.
“I said they’ll get them back in the second period because they’re second-period and third-period players,” McCaffrey said.
Sure enough, the Jets outshot Nashville 25–8 in the second frame and scored three. They tied things up in the third and won in the shootout.
As for the experience of seeing the game live in one of the NHL’s most raucous arenas, McCaffrey said, “That’s another cup of tea — it’s loud. It’s something you have to get used to.
“But I like the little kids. When you look at them, they’re dancing and wiggling their little bums. I think that was so priceless.”
While she enjoyed watching the other fans, McCaffrey is quick to note she didn’t hold back either.
“Of course, you’ve got to yell. When they score, you’ve got to yell,” she said.
“She was yelling at every play,” Lavigne noted. “It was pretty good.”
As for the Jets’ chances in the post-season, McCaffrey has high hopes — and a few prayers.
“We’ve got a few banged-up players, but we’ve made do with what we had and we’ve worked around it and we’re going to keep going,” she said.
“And by the grace of God, He can put a touching hand on this, and maybe we’ll get right to the end.”