Cornwall - Jun. 1, 2011 - As a hockey fan, I am very happy to see that the NHL will be returning to Winnipeg. As everyone knows by now, True North Sports and Entertainment has purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and will move them to the city of Winnipeg, pending NHL Board of Governors approval.
I was eleven years old when the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and Hartford Whalers joined the NHL in time for the 1979-80 season. Some of the most notable names to play on those four teams in the first year were Bobby Hull (Winnipeg), Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton), Michel Goulet (Quebec) and Gordie Howe (Hartford).
I was a member of Cornwall City Council when the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado in 1995 and remember the discussions with Pierre Lacroix about the future of the Cornwall Aces. I remember thinking at the time that it was a sad day for hockey in Canada as the battle of Quebec had now ended. A year later, the Jets left Winnipeg to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the strength of the Canadian dollar and the business acumen of True North proved to be the right recipe to bring the NHL back to Manitoba. Let’s hope the Quebec can get a new building built and someday the NHL can return there as well. I believe there also is a potential for other Canadian teams in Southwestern Ontario (Hamilton, Kitchener, Toronto or London) and the east coast (Halifax).
Lets face it, there are a lot of southern US markets that are not hockey markets and Atlanta has now proven that on two separate occasions. Phoenix and Miami are likely the next US cities to lose their team.
The Jets had a lot of Cornwall connections with the names of Danny Geoffrion, Jim Kyte, Hawerchuk, Scott Arniel, Mike Stapelton, Chad Kilger, Alain Chevrier, Rick Tabaracci, Craig Duncanson, Tony Joseph, and Jason Cirone all sporting a Jets jersey at some point.
It is still unclear as to what they will name the team in Winnipeg. Some say that they shouldn’t use the Jets moniker, because that franchise is still in Phoenix. Due to the fact that it was the Atlanta Thrashers – a whole new franchise with no connection to Winnipeg – some are suggesting Winnipeg Thrashers, Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg Falcons and others.
I personally hope that they call the team the Jets and that perhaps their jerseys have the retro look plus a third jersey with new branding for this new team. I think I will wait to see how these plays out but I will start saving my loonies for a new HAWERCHUK #10 Jets jersey.
My other hope is that this new franchise will honor the retired numbers of Hull (9), Hawerchuk (10) and Thomas Steen (25). This would mean that Evander Kane (9) and Bryan Little (10) would have to find new numbers to wear.
The good news for Winnipeg fans is that they are getting a decent team. Kane, Little, Nik Antropov, Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and others make their starting point way better than if they were an expansion franchise.
Congratulations to the people of Winnipeg and best of luck to the Jets!