Monday, 7 October 2013

The Jets 3.0


Since the return of the NHL to the fine city of Winnipeg in May of 2011, the MSN and blogger community have referred to them as the Jets 2.0. I neither believe this nickname or agree with it. This is the third version of a professional team known as the "Jets" to play in Winnipeg.

To refer to them as 2.0 is one of two things. Either you are assuming that the team that started in 1979 was not an expansion team (it was actually worse) or you are doing what the NHL does, ignoring the WHA. This is wrong on both fronts.

The WHA Jets started playing PROFESSIONAL hockey in 1972 and had a brief but rich history. They won three league titles in seven years, boasted one of the greatest superstars ever in Bobby Hull, and beat one of the best club teams ever put on the ice. People to this day revere the game between the Canadiens and the Red Army, or the Flyers running them out of the arena, but no mention of the Jets, who beat them easily. Between 1976 and 1978, the Jets had one of the most talented teams in the world. Flush with European players, the Jets iced one of the most famous lines ever with Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, and Bobby Hull. If you haven't read the book "Rebel League" by Ed Willis I would highly recommend it. Great stories and so much forgotten history.

 To say that the NHL welcomed the WHA is false. What actually happened was a forced entry to rid themselves of a nuisance. The only reason Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Quebec made it was a beer strike. Had people not protested against Molson, it probably never happens. The hatred of the WHA was so fierce that the penalty absorbed by the four new teams was just short of criminal. All four teams where only allowed to protect two roster players. All other players who's rights were owned by an NHL club transferred over to the club with no compensation. All "junior" aged players went back into the draft. Not only that, the new teams picked at the END of the entry draft which to this day is still the greatest draft classes ever. For example, GM John Ferguson wanted to select Ray Bourque, instead he grabbed Jimmy Mann several picks later. (If you can dig up a copy of Ferguson's book "Fire and Ice", do so, it's a great read and history lesson. And yes, Phil Esposito gave his book the same title...)

 What ensued for Winnipeg was two years of pure unwatchable hockey, this after several years of watching some of the most talented players in the world.  of the four teams, Edmonton faired the best because they were able to protect one of the greatest players in history in Wayne Gretzky, and had a two year run at the draft table that is still the best in history. Drafting five hall of fame players tends to help, but I digress. Calling the Jets of anything less than an expansion team in 1979 is factually wrong. The numbers don't lie...

That my friends is why we should be calling them the Jets 3.0, at least in my humble opinion.

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