NHL Power Rankings: 10 Greatest Moments in Winnipeg Jets History
With the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Jets have been reborn.
For the diehard hockey fans of Manitoba who have been desperate to see the NHL since 1996, the return of the Jets might be the greatest moment in the city and province's sports history.
But what about those first guys? Hull? Hawerchuk?
Certainly they had some great moments.
The Winnipeg Jets came into existence in 1972 in the old WHA, left for Phoenix in 1996 and now are back.
Before the new Jets lace them up and create new memories, let's look back at that original bunch of Winnipeg Jets and rank the ten greatest moments in Jets history.
Hopefully this will bring back memories and whet the appetite for more.
10. Jets Born in 1971
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With the demand for hockey growing in North America the NHL finally expanded it's original six teams to 16. However, that wasn't enough for the hockey fans in several big cities that were still left on the outside looking in.
The void gave berth to the rival World Hockey Association in 1971. One of the cities that was awarded a franchise was Winnipeg, with the Jets.
The Jets were one of the most popular and successful WHA teams, which led to them being one of the teams absorbed by the NHL when the WHA folded.
December 27, 1971 is the date the league officially announced the Jets would be in the WHA and is still the birth date of Jets hockey.
9. Drafting Keith Tkachuk
During the off season in 1990 the Jets finally parted way with their best player in Dale Hawerchuk. They sent him to Buffalo for the 19th pick in the 1990 NHL Entry draft.
The Jets used that pick to select Keith Tkachuk who ended up being the last Winnipeg superstar.
Jets fans were excited by Tkachuk, who had a stellar rookie year and was named captain in only his second NHL season.
Tkachuk was a physical player who also had a fine scoring touch as he led the Jets with 50 goals in their last season in Winnipeg in 1996.
8. The Jets Move to the NHL
With the WHA falling apart in 1979, a demise that included a team folding half way through the season, the NHL looked to absorb some of the more solvent franchises.
No team was in better shape than the Winnipeg Jets.
They had been dominant in WHA play, had brought in the league's first true super star and had broken the European player barrier.
The Jets joined the NHL for the 1979-1980 season, along with the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and New England Whalers.
Winnipeg enjoyed NHL hockey until 1996, making 11 Stanley Cup Playoff appearances along the way. Unfortunately, they were never able to match their WHA success while in the NHL.
7. Ulf Nilssons 1977 Playoff Run
Prior to the Winnipeg Jets signing Swedish players Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg, the assumption was that European players could not play in North America.
Smaller rinks led to more physical games and the soft Europeans were not supposed to be able to handle it.
The Jets didn't believe that and brought over Nilsson, who became a superstar.
He never shone brighter than he did during the 1977 WHA playoffs, where he led all scorers with 27 points in 20 games. Those are pretty impressive numbers no matter what league you are playing in.
Sadly, Nilsson's heroics weren't enough for the Jets to win the Avco Cup as they lost to Quebec in seven games.
6. Jets Beat Soviet Union 5-3
During the 1977-1978 season several WHA teams played various European national teams. At the time there wasn't a team as powerful as the Soviet Union National team.
No club team had ever beaten the Soviets and it didn't look like the Jets were going to be any different as they lost the first three meeting with the Russians in 1977.
On January 5th, 1978 however, they hosted the Soviets in Winnipeg and beat them 5-3 becoming the first club team to beat the Russians.
Bobby Hull was huge in the game with four points, including a hat trick as the Jets hung on to win.
5. Teemu Selanne Breaks Rookie Goal Scoring Record
The Jets drafted the young Selanne out of Finland in 1988 and had to wait four years for him to land on NHL ice.
His rookie year of 1992 was so memorable that nobody in Winnipeg minded the wait.
Mike Bossy held the rookie record for goals with 53 and not only did Selanne beat that, he destroyed it.
Teemu Selanne potted an amazing 76 goals in his rookie season of 1992 and quickly became one of Winnipeg's most beloved Jets.
With Selanne pondering retirement and the Jets back in business it would seem only fitting if he laced them up for one more season in Manitoba.
4. Winning Last Avco Cup in 1979
In the final game in WHA history the Winnipeg Jets beat the Edmonton Oilers for the last Avco Cup ever.
This was the third Avco Cup victory for the Jets who were dominant in the WHA. They made the finals five of the league's seven years and won the cup three times.
This victory against the Oilers, which included a young Wayne Gretzky, was even more memorable as it was the last time the Jets beat Edmonton in the playoffs.
As both teams moved to the NHL the Oilers ousted the Jets six times.
Despite that, the Jets can hold their three Avco Cup victories up as a source of pride.
3. Jets Draft Dale Hawerchuk
The Winnipeg Jets had the number one pick in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft and used it to draft Dale Hawerchuk.
This turned out to be the best draft choice in the franchises history. Hawerchuk was their first NHL super star and burst on the scene his rookie year.
In 1981, he set a then-rookie scoring record with 103 points and won the Calder Trophy.
He ended his Jets career as their all-time leading scorer with 929 points.
2. Jets Sign Bobby Hull in 1972
Prior to the 1972 season Bobby Hull was an NHL star with the Chicago Blackhawks. Hull was growing more and more frustrated with his contract negotiations in Chicago and decided to not only leave the Blackhawks, but leave the league as well.
Hull signed in Winnipeg for a $2 million a year salary, which was big money at the time. It was a landmark moment for not only the Jets, as they had just picked up a hall of fame player in his prime, but the fledgling league as well.
The signing gave the WHA some legitimacy in the hockey world. Hull was great on the ice for the Jets as well.
He ended up as the Jets third all-time scorer with over 300 goals and 648 points.
1. True North Sports Brings Back the Jets
After having their beloved Jets taken from them, the NHL-starved fans of Winnipeg were rewarded for their patience as True North Sports bought the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg.
As excited as the fans were, there was some hesitation to name the team 'Jets.'
On June 24, 2011, Jets fans got their wish as the franchise officially announced that the new team would once again be called the Winnipeg Jets.
For Jets fans, no moment can match it.