Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/9/11

The Winnipeg Jets made their official return to the NHL after a 15-year absence Sunday, hitting the ice at a sold-out MTS Centre for their season opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

The raucous crowd cheered throughout the player introductions as the Jets made their way through a thick fog from the dressing room entrance to the ice surface. The biggest cheer was reserved for hulking defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who grinned as he skated over to his teammates.

An emotional video tribute to the late Rick Rypien was played prior to the opening faceoff. The 27-year-old Rypien, who had signed with the Jets in the offseason, was found dead in his Alberta home over the summer.

Winnipeg native Chantal Kreviazuk and Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy followed with a stirring rendition of O Canada, as the crowd sang along.

The NHL relocated the franchise to Winnipeg after the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers sold the club to True North Sports and Entertainment in the offseason. The Manitoba city had repeatedly been rebuffed in efforts to have the Phoenix Coyotes moved up north.

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