In 1996, the official Winnipeg Jets team of the NHL came to an unceremonious end. The team (based in Winnipeg, Manitoba) had been experiencing financial problems for quite some time, and was eventually moved to Arizona, where it became the Phoenix Coyotes. At the root of the problem were growing salaries and expenses, particularly in the conversion of Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars. (In fact, the Canada-based teams were paying American salaries while collecting Canadian revenue, and thus losing money.) The Winnipeg Jets last game was played in April of 1996.
Now, in 2011, fans are beside themselves at the news that Winnipeg will once again have a hockey team. In early 2011, True North Sports and Entertainment stated that it came to an agreement to buy the Atlanta Thrashers, but that it desired to relocate the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The team will be renamed at some point, and many fans are speculating that the popular but underdog team of the Winnipeg Jets could return.
Fans are confident that the Winnipeg Jets will return, if for no other reason than the fact that the name has mainstream team name recognition, which is hard for NHL owners to dismiss. On the other hand, some fans say that a new team name might actually help revitalize the team and erase old memories of less than stellar win-loss records for the original Jets.
Here’s another angle to consider: Manitoba may be more powerful than Winnipeg alone, especially in terms of fan support. Last but not least, some insiders think that True North Sports and Entertainment might be more interested in keeping the name Manitoba Moose, as they have already invested money in building this brand (which is admittedly minor league right now). What could be an enormous defeat for Winnipeg and Winnipeg Jets fans particularly, may be a sigh of relief to other Canadian cities in Manitoba who also love their hockey.
Don’t count out the people of Winnipeg, nor underestimate their influence. In support of the former Jets team, fans shelled out millions of dollars just to save the dying franchise. Are they going to let this opportunity go? Not likely! There are already many Internet sites devoted to the idea of an official Winnipeg Jets return, and it would be a questionable move to let that fervor fizzle out. What do you think? Should it be the Jets or the Moose?