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Thanks for the memories

Jets franchise owes debt of gratitude to Canucks

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VANCOUVER -- The switch of allegiances in Winnipeg could not be any more dramatic.

The Vancouver Canucks? Don't let the door hit you on the way out of town because the Jets are the city's new passion.

A little gratitude for the Canucks, however, is more than appropriate.

It was nearly 10 years to the day that the Canucks and Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Jets and their predecessors, the Manitoba Moose, were in an affiliation agreement to operate Vancouver's development team in the Manitoba capital.

It was a requirement to jump from the IHL to the AHL, so from 2001 to 2011, the Moose and Canucks had a relationship. In the end, those dealings provided key people on the True North side with the know-how that has made the new Jets franchise mature beyond their new-membership tenure.

In the NHL, the games are won and lost on the ice but rarely is success achieved without background wisdom.

And so we arrived at Thursday night's first-ever meeting between the Canucks and the Jets 2.0, a story that had so many intersections of people, players and cities it made Confusion Corner look like a mere crosswalk.

"I'm really looking forward to that game in Vancouver. ... this is a special game because they've been our partner for a long period of time. It'll be fun to compete against them and it's good to see the people there," said Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger earlier this week.

The affiliation between True North and the Canucks was by no means a love-fest. Like any relationship, it had its ups and downs, its good and bad.

With the perfection of hindsight, could mercuric forward Fedor Fedorov have been handled worse by the Canucks between 2002 and 2004? Did the Canucks really need to spirit Cody Hodgson out of town with an alleged injury last April while the Moose were fighting for first place?

On the flip side, there were more than enough highlights.

Could the Moose have made the Calder Cup final in 2009 without brilliant draft pick goalie Cory Schneider? Would the Moose have been able to sustain momentum and excellence without Vancouver helping them acquire character captain Nolan Baumgartner on two separate occasions?

Through the regimes of Vancouver GMs Brian Burke, Dave Nonis and Mike Gillis, all the good and all the bad, all the arguments, discussions and decisions in the end helped Heisinger and the True North team broaden their horizons in the real hockey world.

"Everything in Vancouver, with the number of regimes we dealt with, everything wasn't positive but everything wasn't negative," Heisinger said. "We learned lots from everybody, Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Mike Gillis, Steve Tambellini, Lorne Henning, Laurence Gilman, learned from them all.

"And I think they learned from us. We had a lot of people come through (Winnipeg) that either directly or indirectly wound up in Vancouver and are still doing a real good job for them."

Current Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault, who coached the Moose in 2005-06, wanted no credit for assisting True North's graduation to the NHL.

"The only little, itsy bitsy help that I might have been able to give is any time anybody would talk to me about the people in Winnipeg, after I had moved on to Vancouver, talking about Zinger or Mark (Chipman) and the job they were doing, I would say the same thing every time.

"And that's that it's an American League team pretty much run like an NHL team. Those guys did everything first class. They take care of the players, the staff.

"If people around maybe heard that, then maybe that's the only thing (I did). The rest, the reason they have an NHL team, is all because of Mark and his group."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Intersections of teams runs deep

Among the connections:

Jets Tanner Glass and Kyle Wellwood once played for the Canucks.

Jets Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd are from B.C., as is goalie coach Wade Flaherty.

Jets coach Claude Noel was the Moose coach and under contract to Vancouver last season.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault coached the Manitoba Moose in 2005-06.

Canucks players Cory Schneider, Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen and Aaron Volpatti were once regulars with the Moose; defencemen Aaron Rome and Sami Salo have played for the Moose on conditioning assignments, making 11 players in all formerly in antlers.

Canucks players Rome and Dale Weise are Manitobans.

Canucks equipment manager Pat O'Neill was once in the same job with Jets 1.0.

Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman is from Winnipeg and once worked for the Jets.

Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness is a former Jets player and coach, including head coach; for good measure his son Ryan is the Jets' manager of hockey operations and team services.

Former Moose assistant coach Eric Crawford is the Canucks' director of player personnel, and former Jets defenceman Dave Babych is a scout for the Canucks.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning have a connection, in the Islanders organization as player and coach, respectively, in the early 1990s.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2012 C3

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