Where There's Smoke There's Fire? Could the Jets, NHL Really Re-Unite?

Joe M.Correspondent IIApril 2, 2010

14 Apr 1996:  The Winnipeg Jets celebrate during a game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.  The Ducks won the game, 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Cratty  /Allsport
Glenn Cratty/Getty Images

J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets!

Okay, so they're not exactly the battle cry of NFL football team from New York but unlike the former, the NHL team is a version I could get used to and ultimately cheer for.

For those of you who read my columns, I've been doing the best I can to provide you with updates when possible concerning the NHL's on-again-off-again courtship with its former Canadian markets most notably Quebec City and Winnipeg, and Hartford in the United States.

It began last October with this article Nordiques, Jets, Whalers, Oh My: Could the NHL Revive Historic Teams? and at the time concerning Winnipeg option, seemed more like a dream since Quebec City seemingly had all the momentum with tentative plans to build a $400 million arena in hopes of landing a future team or one that is currently struggling in the Southern United States.

Toward the end of the year, I had basically given up hope on Winnipeg's part, meanwhile remaining optimistic for Quebec. Google searches every day gave me bits and pieces of updates but nothing concrete.

Then last week happened. Then Ken Campbell's article and Don Cherry's Hockey Night in Canada Rant happened. You can access the links here by reading my latest article on it.

When I began writing for B/R in 2008, I didn't even know there was a Winnipeg Jets page (did you?) still wondering why there isn't one for the Hartford Whalers or Quebec Nordiques.

Anyway, a good friend of mine was the No. 1 ranked writer, actually he was the only such writer as he had something like three or four of the six featured articles for the fan page.

While I've since taken over that spot, interest in the team continues to grow as there were as of last week eight ranked writers.

That page now no longer exists as all my articles sadly get re-directed to the Phoenix Coyotes page (does that explain the low page views?)

Edit: the B/R Jets page can be viewed here.

So my ranking is now second on a page I want no part of, or a team I want no part of.

NHL drags their feet, hopes for miracle

After the rumor mills burst last week of a possible return, the best the NHL could do is muster a simple denial that there were talks between the NHL and Winnipeg.

Too bad this Phoenix Business Journal article confirms the opposite. NHL talking to billionaire David Thomson about Phoenix Coyotes sale.

Then news broke of a meeting on Tuesday between the city of Glendale where the orphan Coyotes call home-for now-between the two top bids for everyone's NHL darling, Coyotes: Ice Edge Holdings whose shaky bid looks bogus at this point, some observers call it dead-I call it a never-was, and Jerry Reinsdorf, current owner of the Chicago White Sox and Bulls.

However, it should be noted that the Reinsdorf bid apparently would have to include an opt-out clause after five years if the team's final line does not improve (turn a profit) which based on the 14 years in the desert where this has never happened, it has to be considered an impossible task.

Also, if the NHL was so confident of Reinsdorf's bid, why did they get David Thomson involved? Why even have discussions with him?

As for Ice Edge, while they seem to be good intentioned, and for all I know are smart, upstanding citizens, simply cannot seem to put their money where their mouth (or heart) is: Banks give Ice Edge the cold shoulder.  

They actually had the nerve to question Mr. Reinsdorf and his bid when it is theirs that is anything but solid at this point.

I for one not only hope they are right, but like Reinsdorf and his bid, along with their own, fade away into the sunset, leaving the NHL no choice but to look at relocation with Mr. Thomson and Mr. Chipman waiting with open arms to fly the Coyotes home to Canada.

I for one am sick of these plucky, fairy-tale feel good stories like this one , about the Coyotes and their sympathetic situation.

Isn't it ironic that its come down to this? A team that is crusing to the playoffs has only two bidders for its services, when logic should tell you it should be numerous?

What does that tell you? What does that tell you about the fact they both are outsiders and no local buyer is involved?

It tells me no one in Arizona cares, better yet, they know that once the fad of this aberration season wears off and its back to usual 11,000-fan arenas, they can't and won't turn a profit. After all, its never happened in 14 years in the desert.

Sure Jerry Reinsdorf could win the bid, and I predict he will because the NHL wants it to happen, just to keep the lowly team there, but that only saves the team for now.

What about five, ten years from now? What about when the fans quit coming once the novelty of winning wears thin?

He has to think about this and hopefully he already has and come to the logical conclusion.

For the good of the game, the NHL must return to Winnipeg. God knows the NHL doesn't want it to happen, so much so this has to be seen as the ultimate last resort. If they wanted it to happen, it would have already.

It is time for the NHL to save face, admit a mistake, and return the Coyotes home to Manitoba from whence they came.

They simply must cut their loses and move on...to the next failed Southern franchise, the Atlanta Thrashers, whom Winnipeg has also been courting for the past two years.

First, take care of the Phoenix situation by moving them to a real market, one that is proven, and then move on to the next failed team, from Atlanta.

Could this team end up in Seattle?

Hope for Winnipeg

If you are a fan of keeping the Coyotes in Arizona, this can't be seen as good news, as in "oh lord, now you done went and got Mr. Thomson involved."  

The city of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, appears to have simply dragged their feet a bit too long.

By now everyone who follows hockey knows, or should be familiar with David Thomson, the billionaire owner of the MTS Centre where the relocated Coyotes (rebranded the Jets) would play.

Rather than explain it all here, I'll just let a more informed fan do it for me .

Among other things, Thomson is basically a well-connected and well-respected owner, super rich which the NHL like every other sport, needs right now, and young and full of optimism of which to reinvigorate a desperate Winnipeg base.

How ironic, and embarrassing would it be for the NHL to basically return-to-sender its long forgotten team? Has that ever happened before?

In a world of relocations where shifting happens all the time, cities get expansion teams or relocations of their own, but never the original franchise. How ironic. Now that's the real fairytale.

You just can't make this stuff up. How appropriate.

A lot of people like to remember the Jets record of futilty, namely their 9 wins in 1980-81 but how many remember their final season in Winnipeg 1996, ended with a first round playoff exist to the Detroit Red Wings? Phoenix inherited a good team and couldn't maintain it. 

A lot has changed since that time that drove the Jets away, namely revolving around a salary cap that dealt with escalating salaries and the need for a new arena.

This time, neither will be an issue as there is a cap (one good thing Bettman did) and the arena while small, and in need of expansion sooner than later, could meet the bare minimum as the NHL has to decide if 15,015 for 41 dates is better than 9,500 a night in Phoenix once things go back to normalcy in the desert even if they win the Cup.

Here is a brief refresher of the final 20 seconds in Jets history, courtesy YouTube .

Maybe soon we can have one on the return of the NHL to a place it never should have left. I for one can't wait to read the transactions page:

NHL Board of Directors: Unanimously approved the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to David Thomson, who has agreed to move the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in time for the 2010-11 season.

I've also written about how the Quebec Nordiques final season in Canada ended with a first round playoff exit to the New York Rangers in the above article on historic teams.

So whats the moral of this story?

It appears to be if you want to stay in your current city, don't make the playoffs, but if you do, don't lose in the first round.

At this point, the only things that could save hockey in Arizona are Reinsdorf and a Stanley Cup championship, but even then, the question remains, for how long?

The NHL babysat the Coyotes for over a year, similar to the Montreal Expos who were owned by Major League baseball from 2002-2004 before moving to the United States and Washington, D.C.

In an ironic twist of fate, and role reversal, could the Canada be the benefactor this time around?

It appears the NHL's patience is wearing thin , and we should have an answer sooner than later. June is the new target date.


In the end money talks and Mr. Thomson's group has got it along with the most sensible plan and you have to wonder since its come this far, when do we reach a point of no return?

This isn't about the need for a new arena, as is the normal relocation threats, as Jobing.com arena was built in 2003. It's about long term viability in a location that just doesn't work and never made sense from day one.

It was part of the failed Southern Strategy Commissioner Bettman was forced (but also one who happily endorsed) to abide by per his hire in the first place.

Who would have ever thought that the team nobody wanted, and whom I had pegged (no pun intended) to end up everywhere from Quebec to Kansas City, to Hamilton to Seattle and all points in between, may be going back home to an old love, who was simply playing nice all along and waiting in the weeds.

The NHL in Winnipeg? Too good to be true?

It makes too much sense not to happen.

Information and references courtesy: Jetsowner.com, Miami Herald, Phoenix Business Journal, Youtube, Ken Campbell and the Hockey News, AZCentral.com, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Hockey Night in Canada, and thenewstribune.com.


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