Monday, May 7, 2012

High Time For Jets Fans To Let Go

In 1996, Winnipeg had their Jets taken away form them.

In 2011, Winnipeg had NHL return to them after 15 seasons.

But still an underlying dislike - and sometimes downright hatred - still seems to be pooring down on the Jets old franchise from Winnipeggers across the board.

Sure, the Jets were moved to Phoenix to become the present-day Coyotes.  All the Jets stats, history, and lore went with the team to the desert and there was never really a healing for Winnipeg hockey fans.

Only a lonely hole.

Imagine that happening to any other fan base - would you wish that upon any other fans?

In talking via Twitter with a loyal Phoenix Coytoes fan, I have learned it is more about acceptance that our team left and isn't ours anymore.  We have our own team back now.

So - in short - Jets fans should just let it go.

April 28, 1996 Norm Maciver scored what would be the final NHL goal in Winnipeg Arena as the Jets bowed out to the Detroit Red Wings in a game six loss that had Jets fans searching for answers on why NHL hockey would not be there when October rolled around.

Instead, Winnipeggers came out half-heartedly to support the replacement team - the IHL's Manitoba Moose - in hopes that it would be the same.

But it wasn't.

Fifteen years of IHL and AHL hockey had many fans frustrated at times because they were seeing the best players of their beloved Moose moving up the ranks and having success with their parent clubs and not having the same calibre hockey in downtown Winnipeg.

In Winnipeg, hockey fans know what it's like to lose a team that means much more than hockey.  The Jets were, to many of us older fans, a childhood memory that was dashed in 1996.

However painful it was to Jets fans, what good would it be to do it to another fan base and wish it upon them?

The dislike of the Coyotes had gone to varying degrees of nastiness the first few years the Jets moved to Arizona.

Jets fans called the Coyotes the 'Desert Weasles' among other unnecessary names.

Winnipegger's were angry the Coyotes took all the tradition, records, and history along with them and left Winnipeg with nothing.

But as the NHL's chances of coming back to Winnipeg diminished in the late 1990's, so did Winnipeg's anger at Phoenix for taking their Jets away.

Only did a new generation of Jets fans take on the argument of why Phoenix still had a team when the Coyotes began to have ownership struggles in the middle to late part of the last decade.

Especially as the Coyotes have made their way to the second round for the first time since the Jets did back in 1987, Jets fans have had their say that they can't get behind a team.

Earlier this season, the Winnipeg Free Press' own Ed Tait called out Jets fans to let go of their bitterness towards the team that was formerly the Jets and move on. (Winnipeg Free Press, 12/1/2011)

Today, the argument from Jets fans and even fans of other Canadian teams has been that no one cares about the Coyotes and it shows in their attendance.

True, the Coyotes finished again at the bottom of average attendance per game through the 2011-12 NHL regular season with 12,420 (only 771 less than the New York Islanders).

True, the Coyotes are the only franchise currently owned by the NHL.

And true, the NHL has had difficulty finding an owner who will keep the franchise in Arizona.

But all the Coyotes need is that one owner who is willing to invest in the franchise and make it viable and successful.

Even writer Jeff Stevenson (who travelled to Glendale for the Jets and Coyotes first game against each other this season) wished the Coyotes would get that one elusive owner to help them. (, 12/15/2011)

Case in point - Nashville.

Nashville has stable ownership and the personnel in place in management and hockey operations that has made the team a success on the ice.

But the biggest attraction making the Predators a big draw for people in Nashville and Tennessee is how the franchise has turned home games at Bridgestone Arena into a full entertainment package.

Not only does hockey happen in Nashville, but live bands and the instillment of game rituals (such as chanting 'Hey, You Suck!' at the other team after the Predators score).

Nashville has been a success in a hockey market not known as a hockey hotbed.

A further glance through the sunbelt shows other successes in Anaheim (2006 Stanley Cup) and San Jose, who both have solid ownership and solid fan bases.

Back to my conversation via Twitter, our Coyotes fan Carly stated "what difference does it make as long as it's sold out?  Hockey grows at different rates.  And it's growing here (in Glendale)."

As printed in The Fourth Period's January/February 2012 edition, Daniel Squizzato called out Canadian and, most importantly, Jets fans for their childlike behaviour of the Coyotes despite the NHL's return to Winnipeg. (Tough Love, The Fourth Period, Jan/Feb 2012)

To point out how franchises have risen from the ashes, look at the Chicago Blackhawks, who turned their Original Six franchise around into a contender and marketed the team properly.

During the early part of the last decade, the Hawks were last of Chicago fans list of teams.  You could barely find any Hawks apparel anywhere in the city.

Now, they are one of the hottest sports items in Chicago, matching and sometimes exceeding that of the Bulls, White Sox, and Cubs.

One word sums up the Phoenix situation: patience.

With the right owner, the Coyotes could become the Nashville of the desert - an entertainment laden experience that has a hockey team that is already a winner and a constant playoff participant.

Again, Phoenix fans do care.

I encourage Jets fans to talk to a Coyotes fan and see what they have to say about constantly hearing their team being taken away or them being undeserving of a team.

Because, as my Twitter friend and Coyotes fan Carly said "Believe me, we care."

And then, so should Jets fans.

1 comment:

  1. I half agree...

    You may have missed some of the online battles over the last few years, but probably not, since you seem aware.

    I take objection with your premise in this way: I think lumping all Yotes' fans into one category is off.

    I divide them into two simple categories:

    1. The fans that like hockey (like your friend).

    2. The assholes that defended the bullshit that the COG was pulling for several years against the EXTREME logic of GWI and many Winnipeggers.

    Hockey fans tend to know the difference between right and wrong in a universal way. While biases will always exist, when fans have no stake in a controversial hockey play, they seem to mostly agree when an obvious penalty should have been called.

    I never held a grudge against Phoenix until I saw some of the hopeless logic that came out of AZ in the last few years.

    I would like to see "the tradition, records, and history" returned to Winnipeg...but it doesn't seem to be the wishes of TN nor the oh well. I don't think it really matters because Winnipeggers will always claim the history as ours, regardless...

    Should the team stay, I am happy for the fans, but not so much for the anti-GWI crowd--some "fans" and especially some of the assholes in AZ politics/media (there is more than a few of them).

    I think a big part of hockey is knowing the difference between right and wrong.

    If I could push a button, I would vote for Quebec to take ownership.

    I do agree with you on one thing: Now that we have a team back, I don't REALLY care as much...

    ...but there is a part of me that would still like to see some of my 2nd category get theirs.