Winnipeg Jets

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The Winnipeg Jets were an ice hockey franchise that existed under both the World Hockey Association and the National Hockey League. In 1996, due to financial troubles, the franchise was moved to Arizona and became the the Phoenix Coyotes.

History

In 1972, Winnipeg was granted one of the founding franchises in the World Hockey Association (WHA). The National Hockey League had recently expanded to 16 teams, adding franchises in many hockey-hungry cities (only one in Canada), but also in Atlanta, Oakland and Los Angeles. The WHA brought professional hockey to Ottawa, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and later Calgary and Toronto.

The Jets' first major signing was Bobby Hull, also known as the Golden Jet. The Jets were the most successful team in the short-lived WHA, winning three Avco Cups, the league's championship trophy. By 1979, the vast majority of the WHA's teams had folded, but the Jets were still going strong, and they were absorbed into the NHL. In doing so, they had to give up three of their top six scorers and were drafted 18th out of the NHL's 21 teams.

The Jets experienced mixed success in the NHL, with predictably poor results in their first few seasons. In 1981, they drafted future hall of famer Dale Hawerchuk. They finished 5th in the league in 1984-85, their best showing. 1988 was the last time the Jets won a playoff series, a drought that has continued to plague the franchise's current incarnation in Phoenix.

As the NHL expanded in the United States, operating costs and salaries grew rapidly, and the Jets were unable to retain their best players. Various schemes were attempted to save the team through a tremendous grassroots effort and government funds. In the end, their efforts were not enough. The Winnipeg Jets played their last game on April 28, 1996 - a home playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 4-1. The last goal ever scored by a Jet was netted by Norm Maciver.

During their history, the Jets retired two numbers: #9, Bobby Hull, and #25, Thomas Steen. Both numbers hang in Glendale Arena with the new Phoenix Coyotes franchise.

Possible return to Winnipeg

The labour dispute of 2004/05 between the owners and players of the NHL has resurected hopes of some Winnipegers that they may get the Jets back if a southern USA team is unable to survive or attract spectators after the labour dispute ends. There were reports in early 2004 that the Tampa Bay Lightning (2004 Stanley Cup Champions) were looking at the new MTS Centre and Winnipeg as a new home. This is an unlikely scenario, unless a league salary cap is negotiated. Owners insist there will be a cap.

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