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WHA Teams: Winnipeg Jets

By Wikipedia

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

At a glance...
Franchise Facts
Established 1972
Located Winnipeg, Manitoba
Purchase Price $25,000 (1972)
Owner(s) Ben Haskin
Saul Simken
WHA Postseason/Titles
Western Division Champions 1973
Canadian Division Champions 1976
AVCO Cup Champions 1976, 1978, 1979
Winnipeg Jets (1972-96)
Phoenix Coyotes (1996-present)
Winnipeg Arena (11,000)

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 major professional hockey to Ottawa, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and later Calgary.

The Jets' first signing was Norm Beaudin "the original jet" and its first major signing was Bobby Hull, also known as the Golden Jet. The move -- partially financed by the rest of the WHA's teams -- was widely seen as giving legitimacy to the WHA as a serious rival major league.

The Jets were further noteworthy in hockey history for being the first North American club to seriously explore Europe as a source of hockey talent. Winnipeg's fortunes were bolstered by acquisitions such as Swedish forwards Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, who starred with Hull on the WHA's most famous and successful forward line, and defenseman Lars-Erik Sj÷berg, who would serve as the team's captain and win accolades as the WHA's best defenseman. Behind these players and other European stars such as Willy Lindstrom, Kent Nilsson, Veli-Pekka Ketola, leavened by players such as Peter Sullivan, Norm Beaudin and goaltender Joe Daley, the Jets were the most successful team in the short-lived WHA, winning three Avco Cups, the league's championship trophy and making the finals five out of the WHA's seven seasons.

Career Leaders (WHA)

  • Games: Bobby Hull, 411
  • Goals: Bobby Hull, 303
  • Assists: Ulf Nilsson, 344
  • Points: Bobby Hull, 638
  • Penalty Minutes: Kim Clackson, 413
  • Goaltending Wins: Joe Daley, 167
  • Shutouts: Daley, 12

NHL Winnipeg Jets (1979 - 1996)

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 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. The team developed into a solid core of players by the mid-80's, with Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Paul MacLean, Randy Carlyle, Laurie Boschman, Doug Smail and David Ellett giving the Jets a solid nucleus and a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup. However, they played in the same division as the powerful Edmonton Oilers and were constantly beaten by them in the playoffs. They finished 4th in the league in 1984-85, their best showing. 1987 was the last time that the Jets won a playoff series while in the National Hockey League, defeating Calgary in the opening round -- a drought that has continued to plague the franchise's current incarnation in Phoenix.

The 1978-79 Media Guide proudly displays the AVCO trophy

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. Bobby Hull's #9 jersey had been temporarily "un-retired" with the acquisition of his son Brett by the Phoenix franchise. Brett wore his father's famous jersey until his own retirement on October 15, 2005; the number will be re-retired.

A number of ex-Jets remain active in the NHL; as of the 2006-7 preseason, these included Dallas Drake, Nikolai Khabibulin, Teppo Numminen, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk and Oleg Tverdovsky. Shane Doan is the last Jet to remain with the Winnipeg-Phoenix franchise.

Possible Return to Winnipeg

The disastrous labor dispute of the 2004-05 between the NHL and NHLPA resurrected the hopes of some Winnipeggers that the city may get another franchise if a team based in the southern United States or another non-traditional hockey region was unable to attract spectators following its resolution. Other reports from Pittsburgh Penguins' owner Mario Lemieux suggested Winnipeg as a possible relocation for the struggling Penguins. Another possibility for the NHL to return to Winnipeg is that of an expansion team. Out of the remaining possibilities for a potential NHL franchise, Winnipeg is one of the strongest. In recent years, Atlanta and Minnesota, who had previously lost NHL franchises, received expansion teams.

Season-by-Season Record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals scored for, GA = Goals scored against, PIM = Penalty minutes

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoff Record
1972-73 78 43 31 4 90 285 249 757 1st in Western Lost Avco World Trophy Final
1973-74 78 34 39 5 73 264 296 673 3rd in Western Lost Quarterfinal
1974-75 78 38 35 5 81 322 293 869 3rd in Canadian Out of Playoffs
1975-76 81 52 27 2 106 345 254 940 1st in Canadian Won Avco World Trophy
1976-77 80 46 32 2 94 366 291 991 2nd in Western Lost Avco World Trophy Final
1977-78 80 50 28 2 102 381 270 988 1st in League Won Avco World Trophy
1978-79 80 39 35 6 84 307 306 1342 3rd in League Won Avco World Trophy
Grand Total 555 302 227 26 630 2270 959 6560

WHA Bibliography
The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes
The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association by Scott Adam Surgent
WHA Pro Hockey '75 - '76 by Dan Proudfoot
WHA Media Guides (each team published one each year)

These and many other WHA items can be found at eBay - check our links on the far right of this page!

Share Your Memories!

We have a WHA Forum! Our sites have always been by you and about you. If you check our TV Forums or our Technology & Science forums, you'll find literally thousands of messages from fans of 1970s TV shows, survivors of hurricanes or aircraft accidents, etc. from all over the world sharing their memories, asking questions, making comments. Our baseball section is new, but don't let that stop you from sharing your memories of WHA games you saw, now-forgotten stadiums, etc. Of course you can also ask questions, post trivia, or just read what others are saying.

--Patrick Mondout



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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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