We all have things we just don’t care about in our lives. Things we never think of, forget they exists until they’re brought up in conversation. Winnipeg used to be that for me. It was just a random capital city like Whitehorse, or that one in New Brunswick....Moncton? St. John’s? Something like that...I never dropped a single thought from my brain on this collection of buildings out in the forests of Manitoba until it was brought up by someone else.
I wasn’t a hockey fan until 1999, which was well past the expiry date for a team that was nothing more than an answer to Trivial Pursuit question like Which World Hockey Association team won the most AVCO Cups? The answer is the Arizona Coyotes, who used to play in Winnipeg but have spent the past quarter century on the wrong side of Phoenix.
When I came into hockey fandom I loved the trivia portion of it, and reading about original locations of hockey teams. I wore an Atlanta Flames hat all through college because the logo was a stylized A and my name is Adam; branding, you know? Atlanta had a hockey team then, and wore one of the best jerseys the NHL has ever seen. I thought it was odd to try again where a team once failed, but the NHL loves doing that and people with lots of money spend it foolishly.
Eventually, those fools realized their bad decision and wanted out. The Blackberry guy, Jim Balsillie, desperately wanted an NHL team but had gone about getting it in such a dumbass way his dream of a team in Hamilton/Greater Toronto Area was all but dead. Which is a shame because that’s the only market left in Canada that can support an NHL team in the long term (see you soon, Ottawa).
So, in a desperation move the NHL approved a Thrashers move to Winnipeg, and the owners caved to public pressure and renamed them the Jets, after the former NHL team that won only two playoff rounds in seventeen years of trying and traded Teemu Selanne to Anaheim for Chad Kilger.
It really shouldn’t have bothered me at all. An NHL team relocated to a city that embraced them, from one that was at best indifferent. It did though. Before we get to the team, let’s get to know the city.
The Name is Stupid
If you get a new team, you need a new name. Rehashing tired old tropes is something that should be left to desperate movie studio heads. Embrace the future, don’t look to the past. Plus it’s hard to differentiate between teams if they have the same names. so now when I want to trash talk the current Jets* I have to stretch my hand allllll the way over to the right number pad to add an asterisk, which can pull a muscle in articles like this. They should have picked a better name that more represents the city the play in. If I may help out with that:
- Winnipeg Black Flies
- Winnipeg Steam Locomotives
- Winnipeg Habitrails
- Winnipeg Don’t Forget We Exist!
- The Mighty Slurpees of Winnipeg
- Winnipeg Stabbers
Everyone pretends it’s the same team as before
Here are a list of things that never happened to this NHL franchise.
This championship win:
These awful attendance numbers:
Oh wait that’s the only part of the history Jets* fans don’t claim.
A city’s history with a sport is definitely something to be celebrated, but you have to be able to acknowledge the failures as well. The original Jets* failed. Accept it.
I don’t know why it’s hard, but so many people in Manitoba can’t tell the difference between a city’s hockey history and a team’s history. We don’t see Minnesota Wild fans hanging onto North Stars history, or San Jose Sharks fans longing for the days of the Seals in white skates and Cooperalls. No Thrashers fans pretended to have always been Flames fans. Maybe a different name would have kept the fans sane?
People acted like Winnipeg (and Canada) deserved the team
Have you ever talked to a typical Canadian hockey fan? Have you ever listened to Canadian hockey media? I’m sure most of you have, but man, it can be grating. They ignore the fact that the NHL is a corporation looking out for one thing: money. It’s not a Crown corporation at arms length from the government, it’s not a charity for lost Canadian hockey players, but when a team is placed in a major metropolitan areas like Dallas - which has a higher population than 10 provinces & territories - it’s treated like a war crime, and an affront to everything decent in the world.
So when the Atlanta Thrashers were moved to Winnipeg it was seen as a wrong being righted. Like the universe was being brought to order. There were stories written and shows recorded about what a wonderful thing was, not just for the city of Winnipeg, or province of Manitoba, but this was a victory for all of Canada.
That entire first post-Atlanta season was a love fest on every hockey broadcast. Look at how wonderful those fans are! They filled every seat! (It’s the smallest arena in the league, guys.) When they finally made the playoffs after years of failure they were swept in round one. Swept, as the Wild Card team, in round one. Still, the continuous praise of Winnipeg as the voice of all Canadian hockey fans continued, and those plucky fans who totally didn’t let their team fail before, were named a star of the game for....cheering for a hockey game.
Wow, 15,000 fans? How could you ever get that many into a hockey game?
I hate the Winnipeg Jets*. I hate everything they brought with them to the league. I hate their stupid jerseys, their teeny tiny arena, the fact that they’re named after a Jet but the city doesn’t have an airport, I hate everything about them.
Just like Patrick Laine.