Winnipeg Jets win on the ice and in the stands with team’s 1st Filipino heritage night

For Alfie Narciso, it meant everything to see her culture represented at the Winnipeg Jets’ first-ever Filipino heritage night.

“It’s the acknowledgement of our culture and just us being Filipinos in the community — that we’re a voice and we are noticeable and we’re recognized. And that’s a good feeling,” Narciso said inside Canada Life Centre ahead of the city’s NHL team facing off against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night.

“My cousin’s actually DJing upstairs, which is total Filipino pride right now. I just love it. I come to the games all the time, but this is just so much more special.”

Eleven-year-old left winger Lucas Marana said he was excited to see so many other Filipino people at the game.

“I’m just really happy that the Jets did this for us,” Marana said, wearing a shirt with the new Filipino-themed Jets logo on it.

A Filipina woman in a Winnipeg Jets jersey with a new Filipino-inspired logo smiles as she talks to a reporter inside the team's arena.
Alfie Narciso said it meant a lot to see her culture represented at the Winnipeg Jets’ first-ever Filipino heritage night on Tuesday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The logo was a collaborative design by Jonato Dalayoan, the graphic, logo and mural designer and owner of 4two Design Inc., and Marc Gomez, True North Sports and Entertainment’s creative lead of hockey branding, the Winnipeg Jets said in a news release.

Its eight-ray golden sun uses a prominent symbol from the Filipino flag and culture. The three stars within the circle, which are also found on the Filipino flag, represent the three major island groups of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The logo also features the colours of the Filipino flag and a traditional Filipino textile pattern. The new image was featured on the team’s warmup jerseys, which were to be auctioned off after the game in support of Filipino youth initiatives in the community.

Neil Pergis said he thinks it’s about time the team did something to connect with Winnipeg’s large Filipino community, which as of the 2021 census made up about 11 per cent of the city’s population.

“I’m actually honoured to be a Filipino. And having us get together in a game setting, especially here in Winnipeg, it really means a lot to the Filipino community,” Pergis said.

Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North, said the organization is always looking for ways to embrace and celebrate different parts of its community. On Tuesday, that included bringing out Filipino food and drinks for fans.

A Filipina woman holds up a sign that reads 'Thank you Winnipeg Jets for the Filipino heritage tribute! Proud to be a Filipino!' in English and Tagalog.
A woman holds up a sign thanking the Winnipeg Jets for the tribute to Filipino culture at the team’s game on Tuesday night. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The extra concessions available were a grilled chicken adobo bowl, traditional pork lumpia and a chicken adobo skewer, the Jets’ release said.

“It’s just the reality of the world. We are just such a multicultural centre and a multicultural world, that you have to pay attention to the makeup of your community and make them all feel welcome,” Donnelly said. 

“We want everyone to really feel comfortable when they come, enjoy the space when they’re here and feel at home.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in Winnipeg for an unrelated media availability, echoed that sentiment ahead of Tuesday’s game.

“First and foremost, we want everybody — no matter who they are, where they’re from, what they believe in — to feel comfortable and to be a part of our game,” Bettman told reporters ahead of the game when asked about the Jets’ Filipino heritage night.

“This game … is about bringing people together and particularly for young people, instilling the right values. And so I think it’s wonderful.”

Tuesday’s game began with a puck drop ceremony with guests from the Filipino community.

That included Manny Aranez, commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association; Aida Champagne, who is active with Filipino community groups including the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival; and Rod Cantiveros, publisher of the Filipino Journal.

A Filipino choir sings on the ice at Canada Life Centre.
Filipino Choir Musica, led by artistic director Dante Aviso, performs the national anthems prior to Tuesday night’s Winnipeg Jets game. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Game-day commentary also included guest host Chester Pangan, who co-hosts the “Good Morning Philippines” show on CKJS 92.7 FM and also mixed in Tagalog during the broadcast, the Jets release said. 

On top of the Filipino DJs performing before the game in the atrium and concourse, Filipino Choir Musica, led by artistic director Dante Aviso, performed the national anthems and entertainment during intermissions.

The Filipino content even extended to the action on the ice, where forward Jason Robertson, whose mother is Filipino, gave Dallas a short-lived 1-0 lead with a goal early in the second period.

The home team made sure the local fans went home happy though, scoring five unanswered goals to beat the Stars 5-1 and move into first place in the NHL’s Central Division.

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