Staying true to form, now that it is all but assured that the Thrashers will be relocating to Winnipeg, us residents have found something else to fight over amongst ourselves. What should our NHL hockey team be called? And should we buy a new car or put down money for three years of season tickets?
At this point, seemingly only days away from an announcement of historic proportions, you are without question party to one of only three schools. The, "they better be called the Jets," old school, complete with seats and memorabilia from the old arena, the, "new team, new beginning, new name," consortium that secretly hope the new team colors are in fashion for the fall, or the, "I don't care what they are called I just want to see some NHL hockey," affiliation that knows we still have half a Bomber season to worry about before we see any ice drama.
All kidding aside, the first argument is the simplest to make. The new team should be called the Winnipeg Jets. But it is not our call to make -- the people that are spending millions on the purchase will ultimately be the decision makers.
The Winnipeg Jets was the brand that represented professional hockey in Manitoba for 24 years, including seven years in the WHA where they laid waste to all who opposed them. The Manitoba Moose are also a professional club that has been here since 1996, but saying our new NHL team should be called the Moose in any semblance of the word, is like people arguing in Toronto for the Buffalo Bills, should they ever end up north of the border, to be called the Argonauts. Two different leagues, two very different histories.
This argument is the easiest for me to lend perspective to, for if God forbid, one day, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were moved to Podunk, Ariz., and renamed the Podunk Prairie Dogs, if we were fortunate to land another CFL team after 15 seasons, it would sound ridiculous to me to call them anything but the Bombers upon their return. It wouldn't matter if they came back from Podunk, or we bought the Rough Riders from Saskatchewan.
The Winnipeg Jets, like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, put their respective sport on the map in this province and internationally. To re-name and re-brand the team is to ignore the soul of the sport in this geography and to turn your back on the past and history of all that has come before.
The flip side to this argument, however, is the fact that since the new team that is reported to be coming here is the Atlanta Thrashers, and the Thrashers have less than nothing to do with any historical relevance to the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba, why not separate these chapters of NHL involvement?
From a financial perspective too, you cannot argue that this is the most lucrative path to go down. If you land a new team and re-brand and re-launch it with a new name and logo in a town that has been starved for NHL hockey for fifteen years, you are going to sell a few jerseys.
The slate is wiped clean, and everything that is or is not accomplished by this newly renovated NHL team has no bearing or association with the past. They are free of the burden or expectations of those that came before them, and the history they make is their own.
Which is really what this debate comes down to. Through all of the rallies and support and interest kept afloat for more than a decade by rabid hockey fans in this town, it was always, "Bring back the Jets." It was never, "we just want an NHL hockey team and lets start over." The appetite, at least in the 11 years I have been here, has always been to restore what was once here and ours.
As exciting as a new start and look for the NHL in the province may be to many, cutting ties to where you came from is a mistake. A new name to go with the new team seems so empty and void of any emotional connection with the people that love hockey and have been waiting for its return for far too long. Can you imagine on opening night at MTS Centre the announcement of, "After 15 long, barren, years, ladies and gentlemen, they are back, your Winnipeg Jets!"
That is too much time to be forgotten, and were it not for the performances and memories of old Jets greats like Steen and Hawerchuk and Selanne and Tkachuk that kept the dream alive and made many long for the days of yore, would the return to Winnipeg have even been feasible?
Never forget where you came from Winnipeg.
Doug Brown, a hard-hitting defensive tackle and even harder-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Winnipeg Free Press.