October 11, 2009: Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume announced plans to try and bring hockey back to Quebec City in the form of the Quebec Nordiques.
As fate would have it, I Googled "Quebec Nordiques" and "Winnipeg Jets," just because I keep up with this stuff constantly. From there, I went to Wikipedia's page on NHL expansion, and there was a small footnote about the meeting that lead me to more sources, which I then Googled. Each Google lead to more speculation and more excitement.
From there I started to write a series of articles for Bleacher Report, doing my best and my personal part to chronicle the move. At times it seemed like Quebec was in the lead for getting a franchise back. Other times as you will see by the headlines, it was tiny Winnipeg who held out hope.
Still other times I was not so nice towards Winnipeg and what I saw as a lack of effort despite being told numerous times by Jets fans that True North Sports and Entertainment was taking the anti-Jim Balsillie approach by doing it the "right way" and by getting back into the league via the front door, under good graces. Lastly, there were times when it appeared Phoenix would be the first to move, then Atlanta, but where? Quite the emotional roller coaster indeed.
Today, all those efforts finally paid off.
They showed it can be done, and they showed the path least taken. Quebec would be wise to take notes. I feel that this announcement today will only continue to put pressure on the French government officials to get their act together and make progress on the proposed Videotron Arena to open in 2015—just in time for the relocated Phoenix Coyotes to drop the puck there.
Many will note, who are familiar with my work over the last 1.5 years plus covering this issue, why I was so harsh on Phoenix, yet took smaller shots at Atlanta: 1. They were two very different situations; 2. Gary Bettman wasn't blatantly trying to save them at all costs, and annoyingly so; 3. Their fans were gracious in defeat; 4. They didn't have an inept city council like Glendale led by a media circus.
I was told numerous times by Canadians, Northerners and Southerners alike to "Believe it when we see it," and while I didn't always keep the faith, today is not a day to rehash those old arguments: today is a day to celebrate the NHL's return to the prairie's of Winnipeg, where many never thought possible.
Today is the day where a large market was reversed and sold into a small market as the 10th biggest media market in Atlanta was sacrificed for the good of the league, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Its like adding another Green Bay Packers to the league, and who doesn't like underdogs?
Finally, today is the day where for the first time since the 1992 expansion of the Ottawa Senators, a Canadian team was added to the NHL, and specifically, at the expense of the failed Sun Belt experiment, just the way it should be. Today is also the first time since 1980 when a U.S. team relocated into Canada, since the 1980 Atlanta Flames moved to Canada. It also changes the answer from the Hartford Whalers (bows head in respect) to the Atlanta Thrashers, as the answer to the question of the last relocated NHL franchise.
The NHL, barring a new commissioner, will never return to the Peach State, nor should it. Two strikes and you are out. Been there, done that. As for Winnipeg, it's a new beginning. The only thing more fitting would be if my second favorite team were to win the Stanley Cup its first year back.
How appropriate would that be?
To True North Sports and Entertainment's David Thomson and Mark Chipman, to Don Cherry, Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, Jetsowner.com's Darren Ford and the many real Jets fans on its forums, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
With that, I leave you with my complied archive: Feel free to relieve the progression of a franchise from one fan's perspective--mine.
October 19: Nordiques, Jets, Whalers, Oh My: Could the NHL Revive Historic Teams? http://bleacherreport.com/articles/274964-nordiques-jets-whalers-oh-my-could-the-nhl-revive-historic-teams
December 29: Hockey Traditionalists Better Hope Coyotes, Thrashers, and Panthers lose soon http://bleacherreport.com/articles/316176-hockey-traditionalists-better-hope-these-teams-start-to-lose-soon
March 18: In a Perfect World, Imposter Coyotes Would Win Cup, Then Move to Quebec http://bleacherreport.com/articles/365312-in-a-perfect-world-imposter-coyotes-would-win-cup-then-move-to-quebec
March 27: For the Good of the game: Why the Coyotes must relocate to the North: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/369722-for-the-good-of-the-game-why-the-coyotes-must-relocate-to-the-north
April 1: Where There's Smoke There's Fire? Could the Jets, NHL Really Re-Unite? http://bleacherreport.com/articles/372230-where-theres-smoke-theres-fire-could-the-jets-nhl-really-re-unite
April 5: Even with a Cup, Long term future not practical for Phoenix: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/373995-even-with-a-cup-long-term-future-not-practical-for-nhl-in-phoenix
April 6: Is Jerry Reinsdorf the NHL's Pawn until Something Better Comes Along? http://bleacherreport.com/articles/374482-is-jerry-reinsdorf-the-nhls-pawn-until-something-better-comes-along
April 8: Ice Edge out of Coyotes ownership soon? Glendale to vote Tuesday: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/375661-ice-edge-out-of-coyotes-ownership-soon-glendale-to-vote-tuesday
May 11: NHL May Return to Winnipeg but only because it has to, not wants to: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/390850-nhl-may-return-to-winnipeg-but-only-because-it-has-to-not-wants-to
May 13: By bailing out the Coyotes NHL, Glendale simply delaying the inevitable: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/391820-by-bailing-out-the-coyotes-nhl-glendale-simply-delaying-the-inevitable
July 31: Ice Edge Holdings: Quit embarrassing Yourselves and Go Away, Already! http://bleacherreport.com/articles/427727-ice-edge-holdings-quit-embarrassing-yourselves-and-go-away-already
October 18: Has Winnipeg Done Enough to secure an NHL team? Quebec has a rally, Jets nothing: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/494762-is-winnipeg-doing-enough-to-secure-an-nhl-team-quebec-has-a-rally-jets-nothing
October 25: 14,895 Reasons For NHL, Gary Bettman to Finally End The Phoenix Coyotes Fraud: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/501417-14895-reasons-for-nhl-gary-bettman-to-finally-end-the-phoenix-coyotes-fraud
December 1: Phoenix Coyotes have 30 days before NHL's self-imposed deadline: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/532147-30-days-to-go-before-the-nhl-self-imposed-deadline-to-keep-coyotes-in-phoenix
December 15: Gary Bettman, NHL Use Bully Tactics To Keep Phoenix Coyotes from Move http://bleacherreport.com/articles/544488-the-shame-game-bettman-nhl-use-bully-tactics-to-keep-phoenix-coyotes-from-move
February 17: The End Appears near for the Thrashers in Atlanta. Is move to Winnipeg next? http://bleacherreport.com/articles/612732-the-end-appears-near-for-the-thrashers-in-atlanta-is-a-move-to-winnipeg-next
March 1: Phoenix Coyotes saga, Goldwater Institute involvement could result in relocation: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/623653-phoenix-coyotes-saga-goldwater-institute-involvement-could-result-in-relocation
March 7: Phoenix Coyotes' Future: Winnipeg Can Wait While NHL, Glendale Play Hardball http://bleacherreport.com/articles/627908-want-to-play-hardball-nhl-glendale-mayor-scruggs-we-can-wait-longer-than-you
April 23: Attention Winnipeg Jets Naysayers: There Will Be No New Arena, MTS Centre Is It! http://bleacherreport.com/articles/675772-attention-winnipeg-jets-naysayers-there-will-be-no-new-arena-mts-centre-is-it
May 23: On the Eve of the NHL's Return to Winnipeg, thoughts from a Minnesota Wild fan: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/710001-on-the-eve-of-winnipegs-return-to-the-nhl-thoughts-from-a-minnesota-wild-fan
A lot of you may be wondering why all the Goldwater/Phoenix stuff when its not them that's moving? (This doesn't include my Quebec archive, if you think Winnipeg was fun, just wait until Le Nordiques return with their French flare!)
A lot of this includes Phoenix because that is where the effort and the logic was, but in the end Atlanta was the real prize.
First off, it's part of the process and part of the reason Winnipeg was able to get the Thrashers, as the league couldn't fight two relocation battles on two fronts. Phoenix's involvement kept Atlanta's problems under the rug long enough so they could be moved.
Next, it shows the struggle and commitment one city had all along as trends can be seen where activity picked up noted by the increased number of articles during given periods.
Finally, it makes us appreciate Winnipeg all the more as we can relieve their journey if only through my eyes. It isn't much but its the least I could do on my part.
TimeandDate.com assisted in the content of this article along with the Bleacher Report archives and ESPN.com, as well as all those sources linked in the articles above.