Former captains raised to rafters
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/02/2019 (1441 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s been nearly 40 years since either Lars-Erik Sjoberg or Ab McDonald wore the ‘C’ for the Winnipeg Jets, but the impact they left on the franchise is still remembered today.
It was Alumni Night on Tuesday at Bell MTS Place, with the Jets taking on their division rival the Minnesota Wild. But perhaps “Captain Night” would’ve been a much more fitting name.
Prior to the game, former captains Sjoberg and McDonald were inducted posthumously into the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame, as their numbers and names were unveiled in the rafters in between the three Avco Cup championship banners, The Hot Line members, and Dale Hawerchuk.
Fellow Jets hall of famers Hawerchuk, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg were in attendance for the ceremony, as were seven former Jets captains: Dave Christian, Morris Lukowich, Thomas Steen, Dean Kennedy, Keith Tkachuk, Kris King and Lucien DeBlois.
Sjoberg and McDonald had different backgrounds, but both contributed to the Jets and the game of hockey in major ways.
Sjoberg, who was born in Falun, Sweden, played for the WHA version of the Jets (1974-79), captaining all three Avco Cup championship teams. He was also the first captain of the Jets’ NHL 1.0 era, as he played his final season in 1980 before retiring.
McDonald, a Winnipeg native, played 16 seasons in the NHL (1958-72), winning four Stanley Cups. The final two seasons of his career were in the WHA with his hometown team. He was the first captain in franchise history and also scored the team’s first goal.
The families of both late greats stood at centre ice, surrounded by former Jets, as a video tribute played and the banners were unveiled. McDonald died in September at the age of 82.
Sjoberg died of cancer in 1987 when he was 43. McDonald’s wife Pat and their five children were in attendance. Making the trip in from Sweden for Sjoberg was his wife Christina, son Magnus, and grandson Samuel.
“When you live in Sweden, it’s pretty amazing that he’s still big here,” Magnus said after the ceremony.
“That’s amazing. In Sweden, he’s faded away. In the hockey areas, he’s still well known, but here in Winnipeg, he’s still known and will be as long as the Jets are around.”
Magnus, 52, spent a couple years of his childhood in Winnipeg before his family moved in 1980 when his dad retired. Magnus, who lives 30 minutes outside of Stockholm, has returned to the city a few times over the years, but said this trip back was extra special, as it was the first time his son, Samuel, has been to Winnipeg.
“It was really big, it was really big,” Magnus said on what the ceremony meant to him. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a couple months now. It was really, really big. It’s too big to put in words.”
Magnus said it’s hard for his son to understand what his grandfather accomplished in the game as he never got to meet him. It’s one of many reasons why Magnus is always asking people that knew his dad for their favourite memories of the man that was nicknamed “The Little General.”
“I’ve been thinking about that the past five or 10 years and I’ve asked people for videos and DVDs and now I have a couple of DVDs coming to me when I’m here now this week,” Magnus said. “I hope to see some things, just so I can see what type of player he was.
“Because I don’t remember that being a 10-year-old or 12-year-old, you don’t look at that. You just see your dad skating around, you don’t know what type of player. I want to know that.”
Tuesday night might not have taught Magnus what type of player his dad was, but it definitely assured him that the organization appreciates everything he did and that he will never be forgotten.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...