Tonight has a special game on the table. For me, this will be the first time I ever get to see the Canucks play the Jets. For lots of you older than me, you will likely remember some of those games back in the day. But as for me, I was only in kindergarten when Winnipeg lost their original Jets team. Since there are several regular readers around here who are about the same age as me, I figured I would make tonight's gamethread into a little history lesson about the Winnipeg Jets.
Back in 1972, when the NHL had already started its major expansion, the WHA (World Hockey Association) created several hockey teams in cities such as Winnipeg, Quebec City, Ottawa and Edmonton. In 1979, since most of the teams had folded, the WHA was disintegrated and Winnipeg's Jets team was absorbed into to the NHL, along with some other WHA survivors. They would join the Smythe division at first, then spend a year in the Norris, before returning to the Smythe for the rest of the 80's and early 90's. (Their fellow division mates for most of this time were the Canucks, Flames, Oilers and Kings.)Although making the playoffs most years, they only made it past the 1st round in 1985 and 1987, both times beating Calgary in the 1st round and losing to Edmonton in the 2nd round. In fact, except for St. Louis in 1982, Winnipeg spent the entire 80's losing to those two Alberta teams. (Sounds familiar, eh?) This changed in 1992, when they finally faced a division rival they had never met in the playoffs before: the Vancouver Canucks. We had very close, low-scoring games for the first 4 games, with Winnipeg edging out a 3-1 series lead. However, Vancouver came back with 8-2, 8-3, and 5-0 score wins for Games 5, 6, and 7 respectively, to take the series win. (Only to lose to Edmonton in the next round, of course.) Vancouver and Winnipeg would meet again the next year, 1993, in the 1st round again. Vancouver would win in 6 games, but not without some controversy: Greg Adams had his first goal of Game 6 count despite a high-stick, and his OT winner in the same game had him crashing into the net, interfering with the goalie, and the puck bouncing off the back of his skate into the net.
Over the summer of 1993, the Smythe Division was dissolved, to make way for the new division format we have now. Winnipeg was sent to the Central Division, and the weakening Canadian dollar was one of the main factors of their demise in the mid-90's. In 1996, the Jets were moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes. Although Winnipeg suffered at first, the AHL quickly moved the Minnesota Moose over to become the Manitoba Moose. (This Moose team would become Vancouver's AHL affiliate in 2001.) In 2011, the owners of the successful Manitoba Moose signed an agreement with the NHL to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers, and move them to Winnipeg. As of this season, Winnipeg had another NHL team named the Jets.
So, tonight will be the first time since February 21 1996 that the Canucks will play the Jets. We can't say we're unfamiliar with them, however. This current Jets team features some recent ex-Canucks (Tanner Glass and Kyle Wellwood), as well as several other recent playoff rivals (Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, and Chris Mason). This should be a great matchup.