Fans in Winnipeg Jets gear took in playoff action in Phoenix this spring. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
After years of struggling to persuade the NHL to believe big-league hockey could once again work in Manitoba, the good fans of Winnipeg finally have their long-lost team back.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Jets have returned. And if they don’t, this whole ordeal would be rather anti-climactic, wouldn’t it?
For years, the rallying cry for Canadian hockey fans on a quest for a seventh team in the Great White North was “Bring Back the Jets!” With no slight to the equally passionate fans in Quebec or even Southern Ontario, Winnipeg always seemed like it was at the top of the list.
The NHL owns the rights to the Jets name and logo and Gary Bettman says it's Winnipeg's if it wants it.
And it is historic. The Jets originated in the old World Hockey Association and broke the million-dollar barrier when they signed Bobby ‘The Golden Jet’ Hull to a lucrative contract that pulled him away from the NHL. The team won three Avco Cups in four years from 1976-1979 before moving over to the NHL for the 1979-80 season. Their acquisition of Swedish players and the style of play they employed influenced Glen Sather and how he constructed the dynastic Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s. It’s a past to be proud of and one that should be embraced in this new era.
Now that Winnipeg has its team back, pending approval from the NHL board of governors, it must be nicknamed the Jets. It would bring back warm memories of Teemu Selanne, Phil Housley, Keith Tkachuk and so many others. It would be the anchor holding together this generation’s fans with those of the past and give them some common ground on which to root from. The elusive and iconic logo that has popped up randomly on the street and in different NHL arenas over the past 15 years would once again stand for something real.
The Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996 and that franchise has its own story that is still unfolding, but just because the Jets, technically, are still around, is no reason to rob the current incarnation of hockey fan from reconnecting with fond childhood memories or passionate recollections of simpler times. And even though the old franchise is still in a strange land, the current Winnipeg team should honor the city’s past greats because Jets are Jets.
The people rooting, supporting and living for this team want it to be called the Jets as well. A poll posted on THN.com a few weeks ago asked readers what the potential Winnipeg team’s nickname should be and 74 percent voted for the Jets. On Tuesday’s poll, 76 percent were voting in favor of the Jets nickname.
More importantly, a poll on the Winnipeg Free Press’ website again showed support for the traditional nickname as 63 percent voted for the Jets. Second place on that poll was nine percent for the Falcons, which would honor the province’s official bird.
And if the fans want the Jets, don’t they deserve the Jets after all these years? Not that the decision would make or break the long-term success of the franchise, but wouldn’t it be folly for the new owners to graduate the Manitoba Moose brand and clearly go against the wishes of its supporters? Is that the best first move to make?
Merchandising is obviously a point of interest for the owners, so a compromise of Golden Jets may satisfy the masses and provide a new revenue stream. That way, you keep Jets in the name and honor the city’s proud professional past. But perhaps an easier solution is to make a small adjustment to the logo, something that’s been done with the Jets before.
But at this point, it just feels as though the team has to be called the Jets. The rallying cry unified hockey fans from across the continent for many years and has ramped up recently, so if the newly-landed NHL team is adorned with a different name, were the Jets ever really brought back?
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His blog appears regularly only on THN.com.
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