CALGARY - Back in 1987, the only way to combat the Sea of Red was to force a Whiteout.
It seemed a natural at the time. Winnipeg is known for its blistering cold winters, so a crowd dressed all in white fit the bill.
Turns out the theme stuck for years, even going as far as Phoenix when the Jets left town, and it all started with a first-round playoff series against the Calgary Flames.
The tradition is the most lasting part about the Flames-Jets rivalry, which will now be rekindled with the Atlanta Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg.
“When you saw all the white, it was pretty stunning to the eye,” said Flames Hall-of-Famer Lanny McDonald.
“Whenever you have that, regardless of what colour it is, it’s something.
“When you walk into the Saddledome and see the red, you have to be intimidated to a certain point. The same thing happens with the white. It gave the fans a rallying point and something cool to hang onto.
“It didn’t really matter if they were copying us or not. What works in one market, you just need to tweak it for somewhere else.”
During the 1980s, the Jets had a bunch of great teams, even finishing as high as fourth in the NHL at one point 1984-85.
The problem was both the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers and eventual 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames were in the same division.
“After two rounds, only one was standing, and unfortunately for us, it was usually Edmonton,” said former Flames forward Colin Patterson. “When you have good competition, it makes you better.
“Winnipeg was always close. They beat us a couple of years and came close to beating Edmonton. They had great teams and great players.”
In three straight seasons (1985-87), the Flames and the Jets met in the first round of the playoffs with the Winnipeg club winning twice.
The one year the Flames did win, they went onto the Cup final only to lose against the Montreal Canadiens. In the series, it took an overtime goal in Game 3 from McDonald to eliminate the Jets.
“It was a broken play going the other way,” McDonald said. “It was a three-on-two that became a two-on-one. Riser (Doug Risebrough) threw it to me in the slot. I managed to squeeze it through.
“Thank goodness, we found a way to win once in a while, because they were very tough.”