The date was April 28, 1996. A day that stands out to many, if not all the fans of the, then Winnipeg Jets. A 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice eliminated the Jets from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After that game, many fans thought that the NHL would never put a team back in Winnipeg; with the arena tore down, along went the happiness as the team moved to Phoenix.
15 years later, on May 31, 2011, Winnipeg has its wish; a second chance at a hockey club. Not just any hockey club, but one that plays in the National Hockey League.
With the $170 million dollar purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers, by True North Sports & Entertainment, Winnipeg has a new team, a new chance. As the Jets fans come out of hiding and the younger fans of the game finally have a home team to cheer on, the NHL has a new market. But along with that, comes with the sadness in Atlanta of, yet again, losing an NHL franchise.
The name for the team is still to be determined. But when many of the fans were asked, it was clear that they wanted the team to be the “Winnipeg Jets”. During the press conference, it was announced that one of the first orders of business, will be naming the team. Although rumors have varied from either using Winnipeg or Manitoba in the name, one of the best ways to win the fans over is to keep it how they would like.
It has been stated on various news sources, social media sites as well, that the NHL will not re-align the divisions for the coming season, which means the Winnipeg team, will be playing the Southeast Division.
This comes with travel to Raleigh, Nashville, Tampa Bay, and Sunrise three times a year. As well as travel to other various Eastern Conference opponents; you can bet that each road game will be a long travel, no matter which coast they are playing on.
Here are some stats to show how the Sabres have fared against the Atlanta Thrashers and Winnipeg Jets over the years.
Buffalo Sabres v. Atlanta Thrashers (regular season & playoffs):
Sabres have gone 20-14-1 along with five overtime losses and four in a shootout. Buffalo outscored the Thrashers 163-131 in those games.
Buffalo Sabres v. Winnipeg Jets (regular season & playoffs):
Sabres went 30-12-4 against Winnipeg, outscoring them 190-132 in those games.
Below are some comments from a few of the other SHC writers:
It’s good for the game. Atlanta was basically a rich kids club in that city. The really wealthy went because they were bored.
Winnepeg is a proven market, the only reason they lost the team is because of the economic funk canada was in
the canadian dollar was worthless at the time
the have history and distance makes the heart grow fonder
it will make some of the conferences work better too
eventually Nashville will move to the Southeast division
basically the Altanta team wasn’t managed well and Winnipeg has a much greater chance for success
It’s a great move for hockey and the NHL. Obviously, there will be much more support for a team in Winnipeg than Atlanta. Winnipeg will draw 15,000 consistently, Atlanta was lucky to get that for their biggest games. I’m disappointed it didn’t work for the NHL down south, though. The fans down there don’t know they’re missing because they never took time to appreciate the game.
It’s cool to give a team to fans who want it. It was a good idea at the time to try and expand the populatiry into bigger U.S. markets but it never caught on and it wan necessary for them to pull out now and head back into Canada. Now all the NHL has to do is get the Panthers out of Miami and into Quebec or Seattle or somewhere else. Phoenix too, to a lesser extent.
It’s very exciting for the NHL fans in Winnipeg. They’ve wanted a team back in their city since the Jets left to become the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996. At the same time, it’s a tough day for NHL fans in Atlanta. The Thrashers didn’t have a phenomenal fan base and the city will now suffer because of that. I believe the NHL will thrive back in Winnipeg because it is another Canadian team for Canada to take under their wing.