So it’s official – the Winnipeg Jets are back. Winnipeg’s new NHL franchise will be called the Jets as announced in Minneapolis just before the NHL Draft of 2011.
Let’s take a brief look at the history for clarity’s sake – it’s not the same franchise. No, the original Winnipeg Jets began play in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1972, moving to the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979 following the collapse of the WHA. Due to mounting financial troubles, in 1996 the franchise moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes. They were the original Jets.
Since 2005 there was a movement in Winnipeg, headed by True North Sports & Entertainment (TNSE) to bring back NHL hockey to Winnipeg and they preferred trying to purchase the Coyotes from Phoenix as the franchise had been losing money badly each season ever since they moved back and two years ago after the owner became bankrupt, the team has been financed by the NHL, who were looking for new owners for the franchise. With the sole exception of captain Shane Doan, who only played one year in Winnipeg (and that too his rookie year just before the franchise was sold and moved to Phoenix) and the rest of his career in Phoenix, no other player on the Coyotes roster have ever played as a member of the Jets. However for reasons of pride (having failed to have hockey succeed in the Arizona desert) and perhaps others, Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted to hold onto the franchise in Phoenix and after 2 season of the NHL owning the Coyotes, the city of Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix where the team actually is located) has agreed to foot an additional $25 million to adjust some loses of the team.
Which meant that the Coyotes were not going anywhere, atleast for another year and TNSE immediately turned their attention to another team in dire financial situations – the Atlanta Thrashers, a franchise established in 1999 and whose owners could not continue maintaining the team as they were losing money fast. Discussions later, the sale of the Thrasher to TNSE was announced on May 31st and the team would be relocating to Winnipeg to play in their new home, the MTS Center. Now what remained is the name of the team. You can’t just have a nameless team or call the team the Winnipeg NHL franchise! You need a nickname, something to identify the team, make the fans bond with it and have a logo proclaiming the name proudly to all & sundry.
Initially I was among the minority that did not want the team to be called the Winnipeg Jets! I had strongly felt that if the Coyotes were the team that would be bought by TNSE and moved back to Winnipeg, back where they belong, then the team should be called the Winnipeg Jets! If it were the Thrashers or some other team being sold & moved to Winnipeg, the name should be different, a new one for new beginnings. The internet was filled with opinions, discussions and polls and it was clear that the overwhelming popular choice was still the Winnipeg Jets. Other names in the fray were the Falcons & Polar Bears. Some even thought that the team should be named as the Manitoba ‘somethings’, including the whole province instead of just the city.
Now the NHL owns the rights to all team names, including the Jets, and were willing to give it to the new team in Winnipeg. The owners of the team were interested in going in a new way. However all over Facebook, Twitter, blogs and chats the fans wanted their ‘Jets’ back. Even a vast majority of fans of other hockey teams seemed to be in favour of naming the franchise as the Jets. I had long back jumped on board and wanted the team to named the Jets. And yesterday, bowing to fan pressure, TNSE’s chairman Mark Chipman announced that the team would indeed be called the Winnipeg Jets just as they were going to select their first round pick in the NHL Draft, to the raucous sounds of joy and excitement by the fans. However, the team will have a brand new logo – which is ok, most teams change their logos, even if it is ever so slightly , after a decade or so – and new colours, which will be very different from the old colours.
So the fans get what they want and will now wait for the day that the team colours, logo & jerseys are revealed. The management is going to look at trades and building up the team and drafting for the future. What will the new logos look like, what will the jersey colours be? Time will tell.