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Old-home week

Visits to the MTS Centre by Sens, Canucks and Rangers brings back former Moose players and coaches

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/3/2014 (1227 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's the middle of a week of reminders to not lose sight of your roots.

In Winnipeg pro hockey, the parts about Bobby Hull and Anders Hedberg and Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne are easy.

Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler (centre) and Alex Burrows,who began their professional careers in Winnipeg, return to the MTS Centre Wednesday night.


Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler (centre) and Alex Burrows,who began their professional careers in Winnipeg, return to the MTS Centre Wednesday night.

Alain Vigneault was only in the AHL for one year as the Canucks knew they had a winner.


Alain Vigneault was only in the AHL for one year as the Canucks knew they had a winner.

Less glamorous but no less important are Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Cory Schneider and 18 other former Manitoba Moose skaters who are still active today in the NHL.

Tonight's visit by the Vancouver Canucks could put as many as eight former Moose players on the ice at the MTS Centre against the Winnipeg Jets. The Canucks were the Moose's NHL parent for 10 seasons.

This stretch began last Saturday with another appearance by Ottawa Senators centre Zack Smith, whose brief playoff experience with the Moose in 2008 was certainly a springboard to his NHL draft and career.

It continues tonight and also on Friday, when two former Moose head coaches, Alain Vigneault and Rangers assistant Scott Arniel will be behind the bench of the visiting New York Rangers.

Old-home weeks or visits are not exactly new -- the Canucks, in fact, were here less than six weeks ago -- but they are certainly cause to note the pride still worn by those connected with the 15 Moose years, 1996-2011.

"It's got nothing to do with me and everything to do with the guys who took advantage of the opportunity," said Craig Heisinger, the Jets current assistant who was GM of the Moose in their final nine seasons. "It speaks so well of them because the (number of) guys who didn't is a larger number."

Heisinger is adamant that so many members of the True North organization now in charge of Winnipeg's NHL franchise cut their teeth and learned their craft by slugging it out in the trenches as many as 15 years with the Moose in the IHL and AHL.

"When you worked for the Moose, you just don't take off the hat," he said. "I think some people behind the scenes are critical of me for that and maybe rightly so, but we were pretty proud of the Moose for a long time and you just don't let it go. Some people would tell you to turn the page, that some of that stuff's not relevant anymore, but I don't see it like that.

"It's as simple as this -- there's no Jets 2.0 without the Moose."

This week, with Arniel's Friday visit with the Rangers upcoming, we have the entire span of the Moose era covered at the MTS Centre.

Arniel, the former Jets 1.0 skater, played in the very first Manitoba Moose game, Oct. 4, 1996 in Milwaukee. He played three seasons for the Moose, then coached for six more, including four as head coach (2006-2010).

Goalie Eddie Lack, forward Jordan Schroeder and defenceman Christopher Tanev, all likely in tonight for the Canucks, played in the very last Moose game, Game 7 of a second-round playoff series in Hamilton on May 9, 2011.

"It was probably one of the best games I ever played," Lack said recently about the triple-overtime 2-1 score decided by an odd carom off the backboards, one that eliminated the underdog Moose. "I remember being really close to winning that game 1-0 and they scored on a deflection off our own skate. It was really disappointing the way it ended but I'm looking back to that game with good memories, still.

"I think Hamilton had a really good team that year and we really pushed them to the end. I don't think we could have done much more there."

Lack, the 26-year-old Swede, played a total of 65 games in his one and only season for the Moose -- his first in North America. He was very good most of the year and stellar in the playoffs.

"What I remember was the atmosphere," he said, asked about playing in Winnipeg. "I remember my first home game here was a great atmosphere and playing on the smaller surface was a little bit of an adjustment for me.

"But everyone treated me real good, with respect, around here. I was very fortunate to be here my first year."

The long relationship between the Moose and Canucks has lasting effects for Heisinger and so a Vancouver visit is still not a night like most others, he said.

"Certainly I have a kind of attachment to Vancouver and I care how they're doing; it's a score I check all the time, and the same for the Rangers (Vigneault, Arniel) and Leafs (former Moose head coach Randy Carlyle)," Heisinger said. "I have friends in Vancouver. Mike Gillis is a friend. Laurence Gllman, Lorne Henning, they're friends. Their trainers are friends and I care how they're doing."



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