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KK Members Blog

The Winnipeg Jets - Getting on Board

07/20/2011 at 2:58pm EDT

These are exciting times to be a hockey fan in Winnipeg, heat wave be damned – from the announcement of True North’s purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers to the draft party at the MTS Centre and the naming of the team, there has been no shortage of exciting developments in regards to Winnipeg’s return to the NHL.

I went to my fair share of Jets games in my time, and like almost every aging hockey fan in town was a huge fan of the team. I was upset when the original Jets were relocated to Phoenix back in 1996, but couldn’t deny the reasons the team left – no local owner, no new arena, etc.

Fast forward fifteen years and the Jets are back – sort of. There’s a new arena and owner (thank goodness), and the team, once again, is called the Jets (to the absolute delight of most). But until the team skates out on to home ice, I think I’ll continue having a hard time calling them “my” team.

My team moved to Phoenix when I was 21. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’d feel any less conflicted were it the Coyotes coming back to town – they’re not really my team either. Yes, they still have one player in their roster that was drafted by the Jets and the numbers 9, 10 and 25 hang in their “Ring of Honor”, but to me the Coyotes aren’t the Jets anymore.

When the Jets left I turned to my second-favourite team – the Montreal Canadiens. I’ve followed their mostly mediocre progress through the years with the fervor and attention to detail I used to reserve for the Jets. From the draft to the trade deadline to the playoffs, I’ve scrutinized every move the Habs have made over the last fifteen years. Many others in town turned to our nearest Canadian neighbours – the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames – others started rooting for the Manitoba Moose’s parent club (the Vancouver Canucks), while a few oddballs stayed with the Coyotes a season or two.

Of course, some hockey fans in Winnipeg turned away from the NHL in disgust when the Jets left in 1996. Of those of us that sheepishly turned our devotion elsewhere, I can’t imagine I’m the only one having troubles shifting my loyalty back to a Winnipeg-based NHL team. I can’t decide whether the fact I didn’t get season tickets (I’m number 2036 of 3479 on the waiting list) is a blessing or a curse, especially since the Jets’ home opener is against my Habs.

On paper, the Jets’ roster looks pretty decent – a serviceable tandem of goalies, a deep defensive core, and some fairly productive forwards that could probably use the help of a pure scorer. Most Winnipeggers haven’t seen much of the Thrashers in action, although some of the new additions will be fairly familiar, as there are a number of Manitoba-born or Manitoba Moose-developed players coming into the fold (worthy of its own blog post… later).

Many Winnipeggers abandoned their adopted teams shortly after the return of the Jets, and with an apparently great deal of ease. I’ve had a tougher time – I still find myself grappling with Scott Gomez’s terrible contract/performance and whether Josh Gorges is going to re-sign with the Habs more than I am with many of the Jets’ roster moves.

Maybe it’s because many of the acquisitions, trades, signings and such have been relatively modest. Maybe a big splash in the free agent market or via trade would stir up some passion for this team. Maybe once I see the new jerseys/logos I’ll be moved to get behind the Jets and officially relegate the Habs to be my 1B team.

I’m definitely excited about the return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg. I watched the True North/NHL press conference announcing the return of the NHL to Winnipeg and got goosebumps. I was at the MTS Centre for the draft party, and screamed like the thousands in the building when Mark Chipman slyly announced GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would make the draft pick “on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets” Those are moments I’ll never forget.

The fact that we’re back in the NHL still doesn\\\‘t seem completely real to me. Until we’re shown a jersey and logo and/or training camp starts, it still doesnt feel real. Maybe if I was one of those going through the process of picking out my seats at the MTS Centre, it would all seem real.

For now, all I can do is learn as much as possible about the roster we’ve adopted from the Atlanta Thrashers.

Go Jets go.


Quick Hits:

- The Winnipeg Free Press reports Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is keeping his eyes on the free agent market for a forward that will fit with the team’s current roster. His priority, however, is getting defenseman Zach Bogosian signed to a new deal. He doesn’t have arbitration rights. The piece also notes an announcement about additional coaching staff could come as early as this week.

- The Free Press also notes recent signing Blake Wheeler watched the Boston Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup with mixed emotions, but is determined to work hard at becoming the power forward he was once projected to be. Wheeler’s two-year deal pays him $2.45 million this season and $2.65 million in 2012-2013.

- Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Sun talked to Chevy and recent Jets acquisition Jason Jaffray about his recent signing with the club. The Manitoba Moose’s second-leading scorer of all-time, Jaffray inked a one-year deal with the Jets earlier this week, and says he’ll battle in camp to secure a regular spot on the team.

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