Win or lose, one constant for the Winnipeg Jets at nearly every home game since their relocation has been the smiling, saluting, thumbs-up-giving face of Len Kropioski, a World War II veteran who is shown on the jumbotron during the Canadian anthem of every game he attends.
Over the past two months, though, Kropioski — known more commonly as ‘Kroppy’ — has been noticeably absent. The 97-year-old, who will turn 98 in July, was hospitalized in early February and hasn’t been able to fill his usual seat along the glass at Winnipeg’s home games.
However, Wednesday during a break in action, the Jets ran one of their common in-arena games called ‘Fan vs. Fan.’ Instead of putting the camera on two of the rowdier Jets fans in house, the game operations crew put the camera on Kropioski, who was returning for his first game since February. The 15,000-plus on hand to watch the Jets play the Senators rose to their feet and brought Kropioski with a lengthy standing ovation as he waved and blew kisses:
Kropioski’s return to the MTS Centre was also shown during the anthem, as the final lines of the anthem were accompanied by Kropioski, shown saluting on the jumbotron while sitting in seats other than his regular spot in the building.
Earlier this month, Kim Innard, a friend of Kropioski’s, said the March 30 game was a contest that he had targeted to return to Winnipeg to watch the Jets. He makes the trip to Winnipeg from Kenora, Ont., a drive which takes roughly two and a half hours.
“He’s stable but he’s working very hard. His intention is to be at the Jets game on March 30. He has signed up (for his season tickets) for the next five years,” she told the Winnipeg Free Press’ Geoff Kirbyson. “He won’t watch a hockey game unless it’s a Jets game. He’s that Jets loyal. He’s in great spirits and he’s getting stronger.”