The Jets return
With the National Hockey League making its return to Winnipeg, the city has gained one team, but there was a thought they could lose two more in the process.
From 1979-96, the Winnipeg Jets were a part of the ever-expanding NHL. With future stars such as Bobby Hull and Teemu Selanne, it appeared as though the Jets were not going anywhere. However, due to financial troubles, the team was sold and later became the Phoenix Coyotes.
The NHL’s return to Winnipeg has been long-awaited and heavily drawn-out. The anxious fans finally got what they had been waiting for on May 31, 2011, when True North Sports and Entertainment were granted ownership of the Atlanta Thrashers and the ability to relocate the team to Winnipeg.
As Winnipeg residents celebrated in the streets upon the official announcement, there was a concern about the fate of two of the province’s other top teams: the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Any worries that fans of the CFL had were quickly put to rest as the Blue Bombers will remain in Winnipeg. However, other concerns were growing surrounding the AHL team currently residing in Winnipeg.
In order to handle all three teams, something or rather some team had to give. The return of the Jets has also marked the departure of the Moose, which happened on June 10. The fan base that the Moose had was large, as they were always near the top of the league in attendance, but the competition between the two hockey teams would simply be too much for the city to handle. As a result, the Moose have been approved to relocate to St. Johns, Nfld. The sacrifice of the Moose is one that the city and even fans of the Moose are more than willing to make if it means the return of the Jets.
“Manitoba deserves to have NHL hockey, and we have no doubt that the NHL will be successful in its return to Winnipeg,” offered AHL president and chief executive officer David Andrews in a statement on theahl.com.
Although the former team was named the Jets, there is some debate as to what this new team will be called. Some people believe that this new team should be called the Jets, others think the Thrashers, and some are hoping for a new name altogether. Ultimately, it will be up to the new owners to decide what the team shall be named, though the most obvious choice and the one that most people are hoping for is the Jets.
Once the name gets resolved, one burning question remains: can a city that had a failed NHL team, with less-than-optimal profit margins actually make the cut this time? The team has already reached their goal of selling 13,000 season tickets, which would make it seem as though this time around it will be different, but once the excitement dies off will the fans stick around?
It is difficult to determine what would be deemed as a successful season for the new squad. It could be finishing above Atlanta’s finish in 2011, which won’t exactly be tough considering they finished 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. It could also be making the playoffs or making a run for the cup. Although the last two are very unlikely, if the team does not make the playoffs the first year back to Winnipeg, does that define a fail?
No matter what the outcome may be for Winnipeg’s new team, it will surely be an exciting year for the city, the fans, and the NHL.