Jets must honour history
Ted Wyman, QMI Agency
|The legacy of the Winnipeg Jets and stars like Bobby Hull (right, with son Brett) may be staying in Phoenix, but it needs to be recognized here as well. (JEFF TOPPING/Reuters)
It’s a fact that the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 don’t technically own the history of the original franchise bearing that name.
That history is in Phoenix for the time being. It’s history that could be on the move again, to parts unknown (perhaps Quebec), when the public well finally runs dry and no owner can be found to sink his own funds into the Glendale money pit.
The numbers of all-time great Jets players Dale Hawerchuk (10), Bobby Hull (9), and Thomas Steen (25) are retired by the Phoenix franchise, which called Winnipeg home from 1972-1996.
It’s a somewhat empty honour, given that none of those players had anything to do with the Phoenix Coyotes, but it was an admirable move by the organization to give the franchise’s stars their due. Teppo Numminen’s No. 27 is also retired by Phoenix, though he actually played more games as a Coyote (551) than as a Jet (547).
When True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg to become the Jets once again, it was aware that the history attached to the name would stay in Phoenix.
The new Winnipeg Jets are a completely different franchise, but they bear a name that has a storied history in this town and that history must be honoured.
The question is: What form will the honour take?
Judging from comments Jets forward Evander Kane made this week, it doesn’t sound like the team intends to retire any numbers of players who made their mark with the previous incarnation of the team.
Kane said he plans to ask Hull for permission to wear No. 9. He certainly wouldn’t have to do that if the team was planning to retire the number.
Centre Bryan Little currently wears No. 10 and defenceman Randy Jones wears No. 12, which is the one number retired by the Manitoba Moose, in honour of longtime captain Mike Keane. There is no No. 25 on the current roster, but you can be sure the number is available.
So it’s obvious the Jets, who declined comment on the subject Thursday, are formulating a plan to honour their name’s history and the legacy of pro hockey in the city in some fashion other than retiring numbers.
Is that good enough?
The purist in me says no. Simply by taking the Jets name, the organization is assuming its history, Phoenix Coyotes bedamned. There are some who will see players wearing the numbers of Hull, Hawerchuck and Steen as a dishonour to the past.
Then again, would it make sense for the numbers to be retired by two franchises? Probably not.
Would the NHL even allow it? We asked the question but received no response.
Bet on the Jets hanging banners in the MTS Centre bearing the likenesses of Winnipeg’s hockey heroes. A roll of honour on the concourse makes sense as well.
The rest will be up to the players themselves.
Kane has obviously been thinking about it, weighing his options, and trying to decide if donning the number of the Golden Jet is the right thing to do.
His understanding of the significance of the decision is to be commended.
We hope other players will exhibit the same reverence.