Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Our tormentors return

Maybe Jets 2.0 can turn tables and plague Oilers over the next several years

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It was once one of hockey's fiercest, if somewhat under-publicized and unappreciated, rivalries.

It didn't carry provincial bragging rights like the Battle of Alberta or the the Nordiques and the Canadiens. And it certainly didn't hold the historical weight of the Habs vs. the Leafs.

But the Winnipeg Jets vs. the Edmonton Oilers did serve up its share of compelling storylines from the days of the World Hockey Association to the NHL's departure in 1996.

Truth be told, even with this old matchup being revived for the first time in 16 years Monday night, the oomph could be lost as puck-drop at the MTS Centre will come on the same day as the craziness that surrounds the National Hockey League's trading deadline.

But all that won't stop us from taking a little stroll down memory lane with a look at what we think were some of the great moments in the Jets-Oilers rivalry.

(Jets fans might want to shield their eyes: Much of this history is lopsided, as some decent local squads were steamrolled by the Oiler dynasty of the 1980s. Proceed at your own discretion)...

 

Oct. 15, 1972

Alberta Oilers 5 Winnipeg Jets 2

THE home opener of the Jets in their WHA debut to Winnipeg fans. The Jets were without Bobby Hull -- his debut was delayed while he battled the Blackhawks in court after leaving the NHL -- and fell before 8,000 at Winnipeg Arena. Danny Johnson and Pepe Bordeleau scored for the Jets and, FYI, the players were introduced by spotlight to the voice of Don Wittman.

 

May 20, 1979

Winnipeg Jets 7 Edmonton Oilers 3

IN the final game of the WHA the Jets, bolstered by the addition of former Houston Aeros stars Terry Ruskowski, Morris Lukowich and Rich Preston and led by Lars-Erik Sjoberg and young Kent Nilsson, knock off Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers in Game 6 of the Avco Cup. Dave Semenko of the Oilers scores the last goal in WHA history against the Jets' Gary 'Suitcase' Smith.

Said the Oilers' Ron Chipperfield of Sjoberg, who was a rock in the series: "He was the difference. I don't think I've ever beaten him 1-on-l. I don't think anybody has beaten him 1-on-l in the five years he's been in the league."

 

April 9, 1983

Edmonton Oilers 4 Winnipeg Jets 3

THE first playoff matchup of the Oilers and the Jets in the NHL and a taste of what is to come. These two clubs would face each other six times in the playoffs and Edmonton not only wins every series, but limits Winnipeg to just four total victories. In this game the Jets returned home down 2-0 in a best-of-five series and lose 4-3 in front of only 11,346.

Paul MacLean, Dale Hawerchuk and Peter Wilson score for Winnipeg but Ken 'The Rat' Linseman plays the hero. Free Press headline after the game: 'The Rat' gives Jets an early vacation'.

 

April 25, 1985

Edmonton Oilers 8 Winnipeg Jets 3

A spectacular season comes to an abrupt end for the Jets, who finished the regular season 43-27-10 -- fourth best in the NHL -- and dispatched the Flames in the first round while unveiling the 'White Out'. But without Dale Hawerchuk in the lineup against the Oil -- injured after taking a crosscheck from Calgary's Jamie Macoun -- the Jets were swept four straight. And on this night it was Gretzky who gobbled the Jets up, scoring three goals and adding four assists -- tying an NHL record -- in an 8-3 win.

"I was expecting him to break out at any time," said Glen Sather, the Oilers' coach. "He was due. When he gets his mind in the right dimension nobody is going to stop him."

 

April 9, 1988

Winnipeg Jets 6 Edmonton Oilers 4

IT took nine years of NHL hockey and a pile of heartache, but the Jets finally knocked off the Oilers in a playoff game. The Jets had dropped two straight in Edmonton before returning home and, buoyed again by a White Out, got a goal and two assists from Thomas Steen en route to the victory.

"It's like we went over a barrier," said Steen. "They always played enough to beat us every time, even if we played very well. I think we proved something to ourselves. Every game for the rest of the series is going to be great."

Well, yeah... about that... the Oilers would go on to win the series in five games and lose only two contests in the entire post-season, sweeping the Boston Bruins to capture the Stanley Cup.

 

April 10, 1990

Winnipeg Jets 4 Edmonton Oilers 3 (2OT)

SOME would say the old Winnipeg Arena was never louder than on this night when Dave Ellett scored the winner in front of 15,572 -- the largest playoff crowd ever to watch a game at the old barn. The victory gave the Jets what seemed like a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. Screamed the headline in the Free Press the next day: 'White Knights!'

The winner came after Thomas Steen beat Craig MacTavish in the draw and fed Ellett at the point. "It's the biggest goal of my pro career," said Ellett. "It's something we always try to do. I just had a clear alley. There was no way I was going to pass up the shot."

 

April 16, 1990

Edmonton Oilers 4 Winnipeg Jets 1

IN what would be the last playoff meeting between the two clubs, the Oilers would complete a comeback from down 3-1 with a decisive victory at Northlands Coliseum. The fact that Bill Ranford was brilliant in the Oiler goal and ultimately led Edmonton to another Stanley Cup was lost on the Jets, who were in control of the series after Ellett's heroics in Game 4, but couldn't seal the deal. It marked the sixth time the Oilers would beat the Jets in eight years.

"You're going here, going there, doing this, doing that and all of a sudden, there's nothing," Ellett said. "No practice tomorrow, nothing, It's a pretty empty time, a pretty sad feeling, a disappointing feeling for us. We came a long way this season and we had our sights set on going farther and lasting longer.

"We just didn't."

 

March 29, 1996

Edmonton Oilers 3 Winnipeg Jets 2

THE last meeting between the two clubs would be a regular-season contest played in front of a full house in Edmonton. The Oilers would jump ahead 3-0 on the Jets 21 minutes into the game -- Winnipeg's goalie, ironically, is current Oiler Nikolai Khabibulin -- and hang on for the victory. Dave Manson and Teppo Numminen scored for the Jets.

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2012 A1

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