Winnipeg Jets

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Winnipeg Jets

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The Winnipeg Jets programs were donated by Ken Turner who was a season ticket holder and attended nearly all of the Winnipeg Jets home games, collecting 741 home game programs. Ken Turner is an exemplar of the fan devotion to the Jets from their inception in the early 1970s to long after their move to Phoenix.

From 1972 to 1996, the Winnipeg Jets were a professional ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Jets were first established as a charter franchise of the World Hockey Association in 1972 and continued to play in the WHA until its merger with the National Hockey League in 1979. The Winnipeg Jets were the most successful team of the WHA and made it to the finals five out of the WHA’s seven seasons, and won the Avco World Trophy three times (1975-76, 1977-78, and 1978-79). In their first season the Jets signed National Hockey League star forward Bobby Hull to a record 2.75 million dollar ten year contract. The Jets were the first North American team to seriously recruit players from Europe whose style had previously been viewed as inappropriate for North American ice hockey. Swedish defenceman Lars-Erik Sjoberg served as the team’s captain for four seasons, and was widely considered the best defenceman of the WHA. Swedish forwards Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson along with Hull formed “the Hot Line,” the most famous and successful forward line in the WHA. In the last season of the WHA the Jets won the Avco World Trophy against the Edmonton Oilers and their star player Wayne Gretzky.

The World Hockey Association folded in 1979 and the Jets, and three other WHA teams, joined the NHL and played their first game on October 10, 1979 against the Pittsburg Penguins. After a dreadful first season, the Jets signed their future lead scorer Dale Hawerchuk in August 1981 where he led them to their first of eleven appearances in the Playoffs. Hawerchuk would play for the Jets until 1990, and he along with Hull, and defenceman Serge Savard, who played for the Jets for the last two seasons of his career after seventeen seasons with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, would enter the Hockey Hall of Fame located in Toronto, Ontario. Thomas Steen debuted in the 1981-82 season and played for fourteen seasons as a Jet, accumulating 950 games, the most in the history of the Jets. His number, along with Hull’s, were the only numbers retired by the franchise. Despite solid regular-season success the Jets had no success in the playoffs, because, perhaps, of the structuring of the NHL. In order to advance to the Conference Finals the Jets had to beat, sometimes both, the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames who were, by many accounts, considered the two best teams in the NHL for most of the 1980s.

As the NHL expanded in the United States operating costs and salaries grew rapidly, and the Jets faced difficult financial circumstances due both to the differences in the Canadian and American exchange rate, and Winnipeg’s status, as of 1996, as the NHL’s smallest market. After facing financial difficulties throughout the 1990s, and despite avid fan support, on April 28, 1996 the Jets played their last NHL game in Winnipeg, a playoff loss against the Detroit Red Wings, before the franchise was sold to Phoenix, Arizona where it was renamed the Phoenix Coyotes. Nostalgia and fan support for the Winnipeg Jets continued long after the team left the city, and in May 2011 it was announced by True North Sports and Entertainment that the NHL was returning to Winnipeg with the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise.


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Created by Erin Acland (2011). Revised by N. Courrier (May 2019).




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