Reality of Jets return slowly sinking in for McVie
Paul Friesen, QMI Agency
|Tom McVie. (QMI AGENCY files)
The man who coached Winnipeg’s last pro hockey champion, and the Jets first game in the NHL, can’t be here for the debut of the Jets, V2.0.
But Tom McVie says he got that nostalgic feeling a few weeks back, when he attended the prospects camp in Penticton and saw his old team’s new logo for the first time.
“Even though the crest was a little different, it was still the Jets,” McVie, a scout for the Bruins, told the Sun. “It just made me feel so good. Seeing all those young guys out there, tryin’ like hell to be a Jet — I just loved it.”
Even so, McVie says the Jets return doesn’t feel completely real to him, yet. And he’s guessing a lot of Winnipeggers are in the same surreal boat.
“Even though it’s happening, I’m not too sure people even believe it is happening,” he said. “People say, ‘Will you be going into Winnipeg this year?’, and I’m thinking Moose, you know? And then I think, ‘Oh, yeah.’ My mind isn’t really clicking in.”
It’s bound to click in when the Jets take on the Montreal Canadiens in the season opener, Oct. 9, a fitting way to kick things off, says the man who was there for the birth of Tuxedo Night.
“I’m excited about that,” McVie said, recalling how outmatched his Jets were against the powerful Habs during that inaugural Jets/NHL season, in 1979-80.
The expansion draft saw the WHA champs lose all but two players.
“I remember Fergie and I walking over to the NHL office to put our couple names in — (Morris) Lukowich being one and Scott Campbell the other — and the rest of them were gone,” McVie said. “It was like losing family.”
That didn’t stop the Jets from knocking off the four-time defending Cup champs, on a night McVie famously told the Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, to take a powder because he’d shown up late for the pre-game skate.
The reborn Jets won’t be as talent-starved as McVie’s.
“They got some good players. And Winnipeg deserves that,” the coach said. “They deserve a top-notch NHL team. They don’t need an expansion team anymore. And they’ve got good people running it now. And they can build on what they’ve got. I don’t know how they’re going to do. But I know they’ve got some good players.
“Wouldn’t it be so great to see them win the Stanley Cup some time? Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”