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The Winnipeg Jets were a Canadian professional ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

They began play in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1972, moving to the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979 following the WHA's collapse.

Due to mounting financial troubles, the franchise moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes) in 1996.

In 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg and restored the Jets name, although the prior Jets club history is retained by the Arizona club (the new Jets did acknowledge the original Jets as part of the 2016 Heritage Classic festivities).

Franchise History[]

The WHA years (1972–1979)[]

The NHL 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.

On December 27, 1971, Winnipeg was granted one of the founding franchises in the WHA, to Ben Hatskin, a local figure who made his wealth in cardboard shipping containers. The team took their name from the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Canada Hockey League.

The Jets' first signing was Norm Beaudin ("the Original Jet") and the first major signing was Bobby Hull. Hull's acquisition, partially financed by the rest of the WHA's teams, gave the league instant credibility and paved the way for other NHL stars to bolt to the upstart league.

The Jets were further noteworthy in hockey history for being the first North American club seriously to 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 (nicknamed "the Hot Line") and defenceman Lars-Erik Sjoberg, who would serve as the team's captain and win accolades as the WHA's best defenceman.

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.

The team won the Avco World Trophy three times, including in the league's final season against Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. The Jets made the finals five of the WHA's seven seasons.

Another notable accomplishment was the Jets' 5–3 victory over the Soviet National team on January 5, 1978

In the WHA's last season, Kent Nilsson had 107 points while Morris Lukowich had 65 goals and Peter Sullivan had 46 goals and 86 points.

The Jets made it to the Avco Cup and Gary Smith gave up the last goal in WHA history to Dave Semenko in a 7–3 Jets win.

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: Joe Daley, 12

The 1976, 1978 and 1979 Avco Cup winning Winnipeg Jets were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in the team category.

The NHL years (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 along with the Nordiques, Oilers and Hartford Whalers.

They had to pay a high price for a berth in the more established league & had to give up three of their top six scorers (the core of the last WHA champion) in a reclamation draft.

They were also forced to draft 18th out of 21 teams.

In the draft, they opted to protect defenceman Scott Campbell, who had shown a good deal of promise in the last WHA season, but Campbell suffered from chronic asthma that was only exacerbated by Winnipeg's frigid weather. The asthma eventually drove him out of the league entirely by 1982.

With a decimated roster, the Jets finished dead last in the league for the next two seasons, including a horrendous nine-win season in 1980–81 that still ranks as the worst in Jets/Coyotes history.

This stands in marked contrast to the other 1979 Avco Cup finalist, the Oilers, who became one of the most successful teams during the 1980s.

The Jets' first two wretched NHL seasons did net them high draft picks; in the 1980 draft they picked Dave Babych second overall and in 1981 they drafted future Hall of Fame member Dale Hawerchuk first overall.

The team developed a solid core of players by the mid-1980s with Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Paul MacLean, Randy Carlyle, Laurie Boschman, Doug Smail and David Ellett providing a strong nucleus.

Led by Hawerchuk, Steen, Babych and Carlyle, the Jets returned to respectability fairly quickly, and made the playoffs 11 times in the next 15 years. However, regular-season success did not transfer over into the playoffs.

This was because Winnipeg played in the same division as the Oilers and Calgary Flames (by some accounts, the two best teams in the league during the second half of the 1980s). Due to the way the playoffs were structured at the time whenever the Jets made the playoffs, they faced the near-certainty of having to beat either the Oilers or the Flames (or both) to get to the Campbell Conference Finals.

At the time, the top four teams in each division made the playoffs. The regular-season division winner playing against the fourth-place team and the regular-season runner-up playing the third-place team in the division semifinals.

The division semifinal winners advanced to the division finals, and the two division final winners would meet in the conference finals.

For example (in the 1984–85 season), they finished with the fourth-best record in the entire league (behind only Philadelphia, Edmonton and Washington).

They also notched 96 points, which would remain the franchise's best as an NHL team until the 2009–10 Coyotes racked up the franchise's second 100-point season (and first as an NHL team).

While they managed to dispatch the Flames (with the league's fifth-best record) in four games in the best-of-five division semi-final, they were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Oilers in the division final.

In fact, Winnipeg and Edmonton played each other in the playoffs six times between 1983 and 1990.

The Oilers not only won every series, but held the Jets to only four total victories. Five of those times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990), the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Winnipeg Jets would win only one other playoff series, in 1987 (defeating Calgary in the division semi-final before losing to Edmonton in the division final).

Demise and Relocation[]

As the NHL expanded in the United States and free agency rules were liberalized, operating costs and salaries grew rapidly. This development hit the league's Canadian teams particularly hard. Moreover, the revised free agency rules gave players the leverage to demand being paid in U.S. dollars.

Until about the early 1990s, Canadian teams were able to pay most of their players in Canadian dollars. However, since the Canadian teams still collected most of their revenue in Canadian dollars, having to pay players in U.S. dollars proved to be a serious drain on finances given the declining value of the Canadian dollar.

By 1996, the exchange rate was $1.40 Canadian for each American dollar. Winnipeg felt the pinch especially hard as it had always been one of the smallest markets in the league.

For most of their NHL tenure, Winnipeg was the second-smallest market, and became the smallest market after the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver as the Colorado Avalanche in 1995.

Despite a loyal fan following, serious doubts were raised about whether Winnipeg could support an NHL team in this new environment. Additionally, their home arena, Winnipeg Arena, was an aging building with no luxury suites and seating with obstructed views.

Attempts to find a local buyer were unsuccessful, with league commissioner Gary Bettman saying, "there doesn't seem to be anybody, in a serious fashion, who wants to own the franchise."

After an eleventh-hour effort by a team of local businessmen, dubbed the Spirit of Manitoba, fell through, team owner Barry Shenkarow sold the team to American businessmen Steven Gluckstern and Richard Burke.

Burke and Gluckstern originally planned to move the team to Minnesota (which had lost the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas in 1993), but when the negotiations for a lease agreement with the landlords of the Target Center fell through, the new owners eventually reached an agreement with Phoenix businessman Jerry Colangelo that saw the team move to Arizona and become the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Winnipeg Jets played their last-ever game on April 28, 1996, a home playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 4–1. Norm Maciver scored the last goal in Jets history.

However, Winnipeg was not without hockey for long; the International Hockey League's Minnesota Moose moved to Winnipeg as the Manitoba Moose a few months after it was announced that the Jets were leaving town.

The team later joined the American Hockey League as the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks when the IHL collapsed.

During their history, the Jets retired two numbers: Bobby Hull's #9 and Thomas Steen's #25. Both numbers hang in the Coyotes' current home, Gila River Arena in the Jets' old blue-red-white colour scheme. Dale Hawerchuk's No. 10 was added in 2006, in the Coyotes' current sand-red-black scheme.

Another tradition that was retained when the franchise moved to Phoenix was the "white-out", in which fans wore all white to home playoff games. The franchise finally won a playoff series in 2012, their first in 25 years, en route to reaching the Conference Finals for the first time where they were defeated by the eventual champions Los Angeles Kings.

Hull's No. 9 jersey was temporarily "un-retired" with the acquisition of his son Brett by the Coyotes. Brett wore his father's famous jersey until his own retirement on October 15, 2005, subsequent to which the number was re-retired.

When the Phoenix Coyotes declared bankruptcy, the NHL took over the franchise. In the midst of the league's search for a new Coyotes owner, True North Sports and Entertainment made two bids with the intent of returning the franchise to Winnipeg. True North also considered buying the Nashville Predators, likely to move it to Winnipeg.

These bids were turned down only after the league reached an agreement with the municipal government, which agreed to subsize the Coyotes' losses in order to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, so True North turned its attention to the financially struggling Atlanta Thrashers, moving it to Winnipeg to become the second incarnation of the Jets (see below).

Current Coyotes team captain Shane Doan (who was drafted seventh overall by the Jets prior to their last season in Winnipeg and played his rookie season in Winnipeg) is the only player from the original Jets to still be active in the NHL as of the 2016–17 season.

Doan has only played for the Coyotes since the team commenced play in Arizona. The only other former Jet still active in professional hockey is Deron Quint, who is currently playing in the DEL in Germany.

Winnipeg White Out[]

The Winnipeg White Out is a hockey tradition that dates back to 1987 when fans were asked to wear white clothing to home playoff games, creating a very intimidating effect and atmosphere.

It was created as a response to the "C of Red" created by fans of the Calgary Flames, whom the home-town Jets were facing in the first round of the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Jets eliminated the Flames in six games, and fans wore white for every home playoff game thereafter. Fans dubbed it the "White Out." The marketing for the team during the playoff referred to the "charge of the white brigade."

Fans of the AHL franchise Manitoba Moose also continued this tradition when the team briefly relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada as the St. John's IceCaps as did fans of the "IceCap's White Out" and "Coyotes White Out," respectively.

When the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg as the second incarnation of the Jets, they brought back the White Out tradition for the 2015 playoffs.

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

WHA era[]

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoff record
1972–73 78 43 31 4 90 285 249 757 first, Western Won Quarter-final (Fighting Saints) 4-1
Won Semi-final (Aeros) 4-0
Lost Final (Whalers) 4-1
1973–74 78 34 39 5 73 264 296 673 fourth, Western Lost Quarter-final (Aeros) 4-0
1974–75 78 38 35 5 81 322 293 869 third, Canadian Did not qualify
1975–76 81 52 27 2 106 345 254 940 first, Canadian Won Quarter-final (Oilers) 4-0
Won Semi-final (Cowboys) 4-1
Won Final (Aeros) 4-0
1976–77 80 46 32 2 94 366 291 991 second, Western Won Quarter-final (Mariners) 4-3
Won Semi-final (Aeros) 4-2
Lost Final (Nordiques) 4-3
1977–78 80 50 28 2 102 381 270 988 first, WHA Won Quarter-final (Bulls) 4-1
Earned Semi-final bye
Won Final (Whalers) 4-0
1978–79 80 39 35 6 84 307 306 1342 third, WHA Won Semi-final (Nordiques) 4-0
Won Final (Oilers) 4-2
WHA totals 555 302 227 26 630 2270 1958 6560

NHL era[]

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoff record
1979–80 80 20 49 11 51 214 314 1251 fifth, Smythe Did not qualify
1980–81 80 9 57 14 32 246 400 1191 fifth, Smythe Did not qualify
1981–82 80 33 33 14 80 319 332 1314 second, Norris Lost Norris Semi-final (Blues) 3-1
1982–83 80 33 39 8 74 311 333 1089 fourth, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Oilers) 3-0
1983–84 80 31 38 11 73 340 374 1579 fourth, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Oilers) 3-0
1984–85 80 43 27 10 96 358 332 1540 second, Smythe Won Smythe Semi-final (Flames) 3-1
Lost Smythe Final (Oilers) 4-0
1985–86 80 26 47 7 59 295 372 1774 third, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Flames) 3-0
1986–87 80 40 32 8 88 279 271 1537 third, Smythe Won Smythe Semi-final (Flames) 4-2
Lost Smythe Final (Oilers) 4-0
1987–88 80 33 36 11 77 292 310 2278 third, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Oilers) 4-1
1988–89 80 26 42 12 64 300 355 1843 fifth, Smythe Did not qualify
1989–90 80 37 32 11 85 298 290 1639 third, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Oilers) 4-3
1990–91 80 26 43 11 63 260 288 1675 fifth, Smythe Did not qualify
1991–92 80 33 32 15 81 251 244 1907 fourth, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Canucks) 4-3
1992–93 84 40 37 7 87 322 320 1851 fourth, Smythe Lost Smythe Semi-final (Canucks) 4-2
1993–94 84 24 51 9 57 245 344 2143 sixth, Central Did not qualify
1994–951 48 16 25 7 39 157 177 1141 sixth, Central Did not qualify
1995–96 82 36 40 6 78 275 291 1622 fifth, Central Lost Conference Quarter-final (Red Wings) 4-2
NHL totals 1338 506 660 172 1184 4762 5347 27374
Grand total 1893 808 887 198 1814 7032 7305 33934
1 Season was shortened by the 1994-95 NHL lockout.

Notable Players[]

Team Captains[]

Note: This list includes Jets captains from both the NHL and WHA.

  • Ab McDonald, 1972–74
  • Dan Johnson, 1974–75
  • Lars-Erik Sjoberg, 1975–78
  • Barry Long, 1978–79
  • Lars-Erik Sjoberg, 1979–80
  • Morris Lukowich, 1980–81
  • Dave Christian, 1981–82
  • Lucien DeBlois, 1982–84
  • Dale Hawerchuk, 1984–89
  • Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen &
    Randy Carlyle (tri-captains), 1989–90
  • Thomas Steen & Randy Carlyle (co-captains), 1990–91
  • Troy Murray, 1991–93
  • Dean Kennedy, 1993
  • Keith Tkachuk, 1993–95
  • Kris King, 1995–96

First Round Draft Picks[]

Note: This list includes draft picks from both the NHL and WHA.

  • 1973: Ron Andruff (11th overall)
  • 1974: Randy Andreachuk (seventh overall)
  • 1975: Brad Gassoff (eighth overall)
  • 1976: Thomas Gradin (ninth overall)
  • 1977: Ron Duguay (third overall)
  • 1978: no WHA draft
  • 1979: Jimmy Mann (19th overall)
  • 1980: Dave Babych (second overall)
  • 1981: Dale Hawerchuk (first overall)
  • 1982: Jim Kyte (12th overall)
  • 1983: Andrew McBain (eighth overall) and Bobby Dollas (14th overall)
  • 1984: none
  • 1985: Ryan Stewart (18th overall)
  • 1986: Pat Elynuik (eighth overall)
  • 1987: Bryan Marchment (16th overall)
  • 1988: Teemu Selanne (10th overall)
  • 1989: Stu Barnes (fourth overall)
  • 1990: Keith Tkachuk (19th overall)
  • 1991: Aaron Ward (fifth overall)
  • 1992: Sergei Bautin (17th overall)
  • 1993: Mats Lindgren (15th overall)
  • 1994: none
  • 1995: Shane Doan (seventh overall)

Hall of Famers[]

  • Dale Hawerchuk, C, 1981–90, inducted 2001
  • Phil Housley, D, 1990–93, inducted 2015
  • Bobby Hull, LW, 1972–80, inducted 1983
  • Serge Savard, D, 1981–83, inducted 1986

Retired Numbers[]

The Winnipeg Jets retired two numbers in their history.

When the Jets relocated to Arizona, the banners of these players also made the move, and these numbers remain retired with the Arizona Coyotes (now in Coyotes' colors).

After the move to Arizona, number 10 was retired in honor of Dale Hawerchuk, number 7 was retired for Keith Tkachuk and number 27 was retired for Teppo Numminen.

Winnipeg Jets retired numbers
No. Player Position Career No. retirement
91 Bobby Hull LW 1972-80 February 19, 1989
25 Thomas Steen RW 1981-95 May 6, 1995
  • 1 Bobby Hull's number was temporarily unretired by the successor Coyotes franchise for Bobby's son Brett in the 2005–06 season before his son Brett retired five games into that season.

Franchise Scoring Leaders[]

Legend: Pos = Position; GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game

Player Pos GP G A Pts P/G
Dale Hawerchuk C 713 379 550 929 1.30
Thomas Steen RW 950 264 553 817 .86
Bobby Hull LW 429 307 341 648 1.51
Paul MacLean RW 527 248 270 518 .98
Ulf Nilsson C 300 140 344 484 1.61
Anders Hedberg RW 286 236 222 458 1.60
Willy Lindstrom RW 604 220 229 449 .74
Morris Lukowich LW 511 233 213 446 .87
Doug Smail LW 691 189 208 397 .58
Laurie Boschman LW 526 152 227 379 .72

Individual Records[]

  • Most goals in a season: Teemu Selanne, 76 (1992–93) (NHL rookie record)
  • Most assists in a season: Phil Housley, 79 (1992–93)
  • Most points in a season: Teemu Selanne 132 (1992–93) (NHL rookie record)
  • Most penalty minutes in a season: Tie Domi, 347 (1993–94)
  • Most points in a season, defenceman: Phil Housley, 97 (1992–93)
  • Most points in a season, rookie: Teemu Selanne, 132 (1992–93) (NHL record)
  • Most wins in a season: Brian Hayward & Bob Essensa, 33 (1984–85 & 1992–93)