WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — The honeymoon is over for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans.
Tickets, once hard to come by, are now readily available. Those who do attend have booed their 16-18-5 team for inconsistent play that has the club sitting near the bottom of its new, tough Central Division.
Armchair general managers call for roster changes to the transplanted ex-Atlanta Thrashers team, while well-liked coach Claude Noel has had his job security questioned.
Players are fed up, too.
"It's what you do out on the ice. You can blow smoke as much as you want in the media," right-winger Blake Wheeler told reporters after the Jets lost a sixth straight game at home Dec. 14.
"We've been blowing smoke for three years — everyone, myself. Everyone that's stood in front of a microphone for the last three years, we've said the same (expletive)."
When the Jets were resurrected in 2011, fans enthusiastically embraced the return of the NHL after a 15-year absence. Thirteen thousand season tickets with a minimum three-year commitment were snapped up, and unlucky fans paid $50 to join a wait list.
The team was loudly cheered by 15,000 grateful admirers at home games and even received a standing ovation when the inaugural season ended with an overtime loss and no playoff berth.
After last season's NHL lockout ended, fans were just happy to head back to the rink, and their adoration continued despite another campaign without postseason action.
But in this third season, cracks are starting to show.
When the home winless streak finally ended with a 5-2 victory over Florida on Dec. 20, there was relief, but no fist pumping as the team headed out on the road for what wound up as losses to Vancouver and Edmonton before a three-day Christmas holiday.