Winnipeg car dealers showing support for Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The city of Winnipeg is enjoying its first trip to an NHL conference final with unbridled enthusiasm. An estimated 25,000 fans packed a downtown street party prior to Game 1, before the Jets defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2. Businesses across the region have posted signs in their windows supporting the team and their simple slogan: "Go Jets Go!" Nearly every fan obeyed the team's call for a whiteout at Bell MTS Place, as stores can't keep white Jets apparel in stock.

The whiteout, however, extends past the arena and into other areas of everyday life, including buying a car. Car dealerships across greater Winnipeg are refusing to put blue, red, silver or -- heaven forbid, Golden Knights black or gold -- cars on display. Instead, lots and showrooms are filled with rows of white cars -- and white cars only. At least a dozen dealerships have joined the trend.

"This really is hockeytown, Canada," says Gord Pedersen, co-owner of the Auto Gallery of Winnipeg. "When the whole thing got rolling, the excitement of the whiteout and the Jets was contagious. We just wanted to find a way to join in and support. It seems everyone is doing some version of what we're doing."

Auto Gallery is on Portage Road, along the route from downtown Winnipeg to the team's practice facility. A row of 12 SUVs, minivans and sedans line the highway under a sign that says: "Here comes the Whiteout. Go Jets Go."

Most dealerships have said that white is usually a best-selling color, but they haven't sold more white vehicles per se during the playoff run. (Murray Jeep Ram proudly reports it sold a white Jeep Wrangler on the morning of Game 2).

"While customers love it," Pedersen said, "we have had some customers come in and say, 'Jeez, I hope they have more than just white.'"

While most of the white cars on display were already in stock, employees at the Winnipeg Kia were jazzed when a new Kia Stinger, a highlight of their luxury brand, arrived and happened to be white.

"We got that thing washed right away when it showed up and put it at center stage of our display," said Shelley Hay, a business development warranty administrator for Kia.

Winnipeg Kia is locally run and operated by a family that Hay said is "ingrained in the hockey community."

"The staff that works here, the customers that come in, the Jets are something we all talk about and we all thrive on and follow," Hay said. "We love our city, we serve our city, and it's just a vibe everybody is feeling. This is a small way we can show the team we are here to support them."

The staff is allowed to wear Jets gear on game days, and according to Hay, almost everyone participates. They also spent "a lot of money" on white balloons.

"Everywhere you go in the city, you see little signs of ways the city is supporting us," said Jets center Andrew Copp. "It's a really cool feeling."

The city is reaping benefits of a long playoff run. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the three home playoff games during the first round showed spending increases of 30.5 percent, 22 percent, and 30 percent respectively for businesses within a five-block radius of Bell MTS Place.

Many businesses have leveraged the Jets' success into something bigger. When Auto Gallery found out that Harvest -- a nonprofit that provides food for the hungry -- had a low supply, the dealership began a campaign in which it donated $100 for every Jets goal. Pedersen reports that as the Jets continue to find success, his dealership has had to adjust its goals for a total.