The Winnipeg Jets was a professional hockey franchise that played in both the World Hockey Association (WHA) and the National Hockey League (NHL). It was based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and played its home games at the Winnipeg Arena. Team colors were blue, white and red.

The Jets were one of the 12 charter franchises in the fledgling WHA when it was formed in Fall 1971. The team was named after a local junior hockey franchise which was also financed by Jets' owner Ben Hatskin. Seeking to establish credibility for the franchise (and the league), Hatskin signed the biggest NHL star not under contract -- Bobby Hull -- to a million dollar contract in a ceremony held at the corner of Portage and Main, in downtown Winnipeg. The Jets were the first North American franchise to seriously pursue European talent, importing stars like Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Lars-Erik Sjoberg. The Jets played all seven WHA seasons (one of the few clubs to do so without relocating at least once), winning the Avco Cup three times.

After the 1978-79 season, the WHA folded, and its four strongest clubs -- the Jets, the Edmonton Oilers, the Quebec Nordiques and the Hartford Whalers -- were merged into the NHL. The Jets' first two seasons in the NHL were miserable. Much of their talent was lost either to the expansion draft (Kent Nilson), trades (Hull) or free agency.

The 1980-81 season was the franchise's worst ever, tying a league record low of nine wins for the season. As a result of their poor record, the Jets had the first overall pick of the 1981 entry draft, and selected center Dale Hawerchuk. Hawerchuk had an immediate impact, winning the Calder Trophy (awarded to the Rookie of the Year) and leading the Jets to a playoff spot. Other standout players of this era included Morris Lukowich, Dave Babych and Paul MacLean.

Upon entry into the NHL, the Jets played in the Norris Division, but after the Colorado Rockies franchise moved to New Jersey to become the Devils, the Jets were switched to the Smythe Division. Unfortunately, this move corresponded with the Wayne Gretzky era in Edmonton, and the Jets were forced to play the Gretzky/Messier/Kurri/Coffey Oilers, as well as perennially-strong clubs in Calgary and Vancouver, eight times a year. If the Jets made the Stanley Cup playoffs, a first- or second- round meeting with the Oilers or Flames was inevitable. The Jets never made it our of their division. Their best hope came in the 1985-86 season, when the club notched a club-high 96 points in the regular season. Hawerchuk was injured in the opening round of the playoffs that season, and the Jets were eliminated by the Oilers in the division finals. Notable Jets during this period include Thomas Steen, Dave Ellett, Laurie Boschman and Randy Carlyle

During the 1990 off-season, Hawerchuk was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Phil Housley. While Housley was a productive player, Hawerchuk's departure left the Jets without a bonafide star until the arrival of Teemu Selanne in 1992. Selanne set the league on fire, winning the Calder and setting a record for most goals by a rookie (76). Selanne was sidelined for much of the next two seasons with injuries, and has been unable to duplicate his freshman successes to date. Selanne was joined by such Jets stars are Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Zhamnov, Teppo Numminen and Bob Essensa during this period.

The mid 1990's were a contentious period for the Jets. The owners, headed by Barry Shenkarow, were demanding the city build a new arena for the team. Various groups attempted to persuade the three levels of government to finance a new facility and two separate bids were tendered, albeit unsuccessfully, to purchase the team from Shenkarow. In 1996, Shenkarow sold the team to a group led by Richard Burke, who moved the franchise to Arizona for the 1996-97 season. The club now competes as the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL's Pacific Division. Currently (as of 6/24/02) only two members of the Coyotes roster who formerly were Jets: Numminen and Shane Doan.


Retired jerseys:
#9 - Bobby Hull
#25 - Thomas Steen
Sources:
Winnipeg Jets Tribute Site - http://www.dilawri.com/sites/jetstribute/
Winnipeg Jets Memorial Page - http://www.curtiswalker.com/jets/
Phoenix Coyotes - http://www.phoenixcoyotes.com/

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