Almost Home

Robert Cleave
May 19 2011 10:21PM

            

As a Winnipegger, I've spent the last couple of years watching the NHL's endless machinations to keep a team in Phoenix with considerable amusement and maybe just a touch of anger. For all the talk of arenas and owners, or lack thereof, I'd be lying if I said that I ever felt as if my Arctic outpost got the same level of league attention when things were going to hell in '94 and '95.

So tonight, as the first bits of news have begun trickling in that my hometown really was on the verge of getting a second bite at the cherry, I'm struck by how unsettled I'm feeling about the whole enterprise.

By 1996, like so many Jets' fans, I was completely fed up with the NHL, and yet even then, the economic conditions that had sent the Nordiques away and threatened the Oilers and Flames were hard to ignore if one chose to be honest about the situation.

TOUGH TIMES

The Canadian dollar was headed for a lengthy swoon, and anyone foolhardy enough to own a team in a marginal market like Winnipeg was going to need deep pockets and extra revenue streams from a modern facility to cope. Even then, any team in that economic environment was still certain to be a very questionable proposition.

The owner and building didn't happen, obviously, and away they went, headed to their desert oasis so that they might continue a long history of never being very good. My fandom, like most people's, was rooted in local bonds built during childhood that carried on into my adult years. As a result, after the team moved the Coyotes became just another team from a place I didn't give a rat's ass about, no different from St. Louis or L.A. or PIttsburgh.

My indifference was mostly real, with only a slight bit of covering for the disappointment, and that attitude appeared to be shared by most of my fellow Manitobans. The Coyotes didn't exactly carry many fans with them from here, and obviously I'm in that number that chose to gravitate elsewhere.

Even as the league's center of financial power began to shift north after the lockout, there was still that nagging sense that the NHL's move to conquer the Sunbelt was too precious a project to be allowed to simply fail without a monumental effort in every shaky market to prop things up. We've certainly seen that in Phoenix, and a cynic, or a realist, take your pick, might have thought that it would happen again elsewhere.

As a result, the default position for most people was that the league brass would rather die in a fire than retrace their steps to Winnipeg. Time has never really healed the wound here, and if anyone doubted that, the reaction by the locals during these last two years of speculation that a team might well be viable again in our mosquito-ridden hellhole should have tipped everyone off. Bruce Arthur touched on this the other day, showing a decent understanding of this insular spot for an auslander.

This really has been a community struggling very hard to rein in its hope so as not to be crushed if things went badly, and as the events of the last few days have sent this affair near the finish line, I was reminded of an article from the past that had nothing at all to do with hockey and absolutely everything to do with here.

Paul Tough passed through these parts nearly a decade ago to interview John K. Samson of the Weakerthans, and ended up writing more than a few hard truths about Winnipeg and its citizens. I was always particularly struck by this bit:

At the same time, there is a small-town resent­ment that often gets expressed as a com­pli­cated kind of self-loathing.

I can't imagine a sentence that could possibly do a better job of describing the local zeitgeist that has been in place since forever, and even in these days where hope has replaced our normal skepticism about the motives of people in the league office, there's still the clear sense that the NHL is only coming here because of an abject failure elsewhere, and not out of a belief that we were done wrong in the '90s or that Winnipeg was a first choice market in their eyes. 

As an aside, it's also, from my perspective, slightly unseemly to gloat over the failure of that other market, for whatever reasons it might have occured. As I mentioned last week, it's not always easy to be a fan in the Southern U.S., and if their team is leaving, the people that cheered the Thrashers have every reason to feel as if they were let down in a way. I've been there. I get it. It feels like crap.

A NEW HOPE

With that all said, tonight is a night where the people here can begin to hope, in a tangible way, that something that means so much to so many will again grace our city in a meaningful way. Whether there is enough support for a viable franchise to exist in the long term is still an open question, but for the first time in a decade and a half, Winnipeg will have a proper chance to offer its answer.

1a1030a8151ca7a0d81aea58f0fb1dbc
Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 Rod Blogojevich
May 19 2011, 10:40PM
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Bob your writing here for the Flames has been amazing but no hard feelings from anyone here if you switch allegiances to your city's new team! I for one hope that Wanye and the Nation staff instill you as the lead writer of JetsNation or whatever it may be called if you have the time for that!

All in all, congrats!

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#2 Vintage Flame
May 19 2011, 10:50PM
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Pretty cool article Bob. You know I was never really a Jets fan to begin with, but was mad as hell when they left Winnipeg. Even though part of me felt like "The Peg" blew it on their own behalf by fans not showing up for the games, the majority of me felt like a great injustice was being done to a country that gave this great game life. It was not a dignified end at all.

Over the past 15 years my opinion has shifted away from blaming the fans in Winnipeg to the apathetic interests of the NHL in protecting one of their own in favour of searching out fat wallets in the US with big television markets. I wonder now what the is the use of having a viewership of 20 million people that aren't interested in watching what you're selling?

And what of the opinion I used to have of the fans in Winnipeg? Well that changed too. Winnipeg was a city that was hit hard by a down economy and you can hardly blame a ticket holder that chooses to provide for his or her family rather that providing for a millionaire's.

I guess in the end, I'm thrilled to have the Jets back in fhe fold and I'm happy for all the fans in Winnipeg, including yourself Bob,to once again have the chance to show the NHL that you too can be a great Canadian hockey city.

So to you on this night, I say CONGRATS!

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#3 Kent Wilson
May 19 2011, 11:04PM
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Rod Blogojevich wrote:

Bob your writing here for the Flames has been amazing but no hard feelings from anyone here if you switch allegiances to your city's new team! I for one hope that Wanye and the Nation staff instill you as the lead writer of JetsNation or whatever it may be called if you have the time for that!

All in all, congrats!

We're way ahead of you Rod ;)

Just wanted to echo what's already been said Bob. Great work.

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#4 RossCreekNation
May 19 2011, 11:45PM
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Good stuff Bob. Should post this on ON too.

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#5 Kent Wilson
May 19 2011, 11:56PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Good stuff Bob. Should post this on ON too.

I've put it up across the Nations.

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#6 the admiral
May 20 2011, 12:19AM
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Does anyone else think that they might be possibly working out a franchise history exchange with the Coyotes?

The league owns the Coyotes and they could do an exchange where the "Trashers" get all history, the "jets" name and all records prior to them leaving the Peg. Phoenix gets to keep there citys hockey history and the "Trashers" keep 1996 and earlier?

Of course if this is true

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#7 robinrussia
May 20 2011, 12:21AM
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Great news for Winnipeg! Great news for Canada and the NHL!

I'm looking fwd to the first game against the Oil!

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#8 Sparky
May 20 2011, 12:37AM
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Jets nation coming soon...

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#9 DSF
May 20 2011, 12:39AM
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Awesome news for the NHL and hockey in general.

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#10 SmellOfVictory
May 20 2011, 12:56AM
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Too bad it couldn't have been from Phoenix. Would've been cool to see Doan go through a full 180 in terms of team geography.

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#11 jeanshorts
May 20 2011, 12:56AM
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"At the same time, there is a small-town resent­ment that often gets expressed as a com­pli­cated kind of self-loathing."

This sounds AWFULLY familiar. "No one wants to come play in Edmonton cause the crappy weather". "There's nothing to do in this crappy town". "There's no culture here", "There's no nightlife here" etc, etc, lather, rinse, repeat.

Good for Winnipeg (if it actually happens and it probably will). I'm mostly glad that Edmonton has now moved up down to number 2 on the least desirable places to play in the NHL list.

Now, where's a good place to store all my "Save The Jets 2022" signs?

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#12 Pilgor09
May 20 2011, 01:29AM
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Blue Bombers and Jets. There is some aviation fetish down there.

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#13 Captain Ron
May 20 2011, 01:34AM
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I have to admit that after reading Roberts article this really hits home for me. As a former Winnipegger that was there, at the corner of Portage and Main during the rallies, and having donated to try to save the team I think there will be mixed feelings for many people if the Thrashers come to town. It really struck me that after reading many stories and comments on Flames Nation this is what had me sign up to put in my 2 cents worth. I'm a Flames season ticket holder and have been a fan since I moved here 12 years ago from Winnipeg. As a kid growing up in Winnipeg, and of course a Jets fan I can remember being at the corner of Portage and Main, years before they left town to see Ben Hatskin sign Bobby Hull to that million dollar contract. There is a laminated picture of that event attached to a toolbox in my garage just a few feet away from this computer. Its just a cool picture of an event in time that I always liked. When I was 15 years old I played in a golf tournament in WPG called the Police and Pal I think and Bobby Hull was a guest in our foursome. If the Jets do go back to WPG I hope that some other kid there has the opportunity to have these kind of memories with a future star player that I did with a star from the past. When the Jets left town Barry Shenkarow had to either chose to make millions or lose millions. I would have done what he did too. Nicely done article Robert I enjoyed reading it. I hope for all the fans in WPG the dream comes true and your prepared to support a team for a long time. It won't come cheap but you can do it. I'm a Flames fan now but if the Jets ever come back and go on a run in the playoffs when the Flames are out of it I will definately cheer for them.

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#14 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 20 2011, 01:46AM
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Prepare to be trolled!

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#15 Winnipeg bound
May 20 2011, 05:29AM
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Just for a laugh (fountain tire guy)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdvr-4nYs5s

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#16 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
May 20 2011, 06:41AM
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Winnipeg bound wrote:

Just for a laugh (fountain tire guy)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdvr-4nYs5s

I belly laughed! Thanks that is great! I really will be happy to have a "Jets Nation" Another CDN team to loathe upon and stir the fire. Hope to meet the Jets in the western conference final in 3 years.

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#17 backburner
May 20 2011, 06:54AM
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This is great for Winnipeg, but I hope the fans will show up for the games like they support the Moose!

Here's another gem...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdh70xdZHK0&NR=1

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#18 michael
May 20 2011, 07:26AM
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Playing in the South East Division your Winnipeg Jets. Realignment. Teemu Selanne signs for a last time with the Jets. Don Whittman is rolling over in his grave. Bring back the Queen.

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#19 rubbertrout
May 20 2011, 07:46AM
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It is amazing to me that the words "zeitgeist" and "Winnipeg" can appear in the same article.

Good show.

Now there is a free agent destination worse than Edmonton.

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#20 The Towel Boy
May 20 2011, 07:53AM
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Great article. Props.

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#21 T.C.
May 20 2011, 08:08AM
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This is awesome for Winnipeg!only problem is if they get a team won't cowtown want one too?

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#22 Kent Wilson
May 20 2011, 08:16AM
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@Captain Ron

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing Ron.

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#23 Oilcruzer
May 20 2011, 08:21AM
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@T.C.

(edit) was not meant for @TC - meant for the Cleaver

I agree with the sentiment. The lack of NHL execs officially or unofficially waving the "woo hoo" flag is all we need to see.

The NHL brass are not fans of this.

Like when all the girls leave with other guys... except that one in the corner, and she reminds you of your sister.

Go 'peg.

Another team to cheer for against the 'nucks and the 'lames. And of course the Maple Laffs.

(Hire Dale Hawerchuck is some capacity too.)

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#24 positivebrontefan
May 20 2011, 08:33AM
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jetnation.com goes to the NY Jets website. Would you still be able to do a jetsnation?

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#25 book¡e
May 20 2011, 08:48AM
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I already hate the Winnipeg Whatevers and look forward to the Oilers thrashing them over the next decade or so.

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#26 Kent Wilson
May 20 2011, 08:56AM
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positivebrontefan wrote:

jetnation.com goes to the NY Jets website. Would you still be able to do a jetsnation?

Im sure we'll figure something out.

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#27 Dean Belanger
May 20 2011, 09:07AM
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What a fantastic column! I moved in 1995 after all of the crap that went down with Winnipeg Enterprises, I just enough of the city and the negativity. As a result of moving to Edmonton, the impossible happened...I became an Oilers fan. A big one!

So now I'm looking at the return of a team to my place of birth square in the eye and I think, do I still love her? Man it's going to be wierd the first time the Winnipeg whatever's come to Edmonton. It's like having two girlfriends in the same room.

I guess I'm going to become one of those idiot's who saw two jerseys in half and cheer for both teams...I always hated those guys.

On the bright side I improve my chances of seeing one of my teams win on a nightly basis.

Add in the arena news here and this has been a great week for hockey!

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#28 Gange
May 20 2011, 09:13AM
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Nice piece RC.

Still calling you a traitor, but it's all good.

:)

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#29 Team Hall
May 20 2011, 09:27AM
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The city in that picture looks very nice. It couldn't possibly be Winnipeg, could it? I was going to say that I felt a bit of what you're feeling, being in the 2nd least desireable destination in the NHL, and all that, but then I found out you cheer for the Flames... Hilarious quote from above, "Now that Winnipeg has a team, won't Cowtown want one too?"

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#30 Bob Cob
May 20 2011, 09:45AM
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If you look up Winnipeg in Wikipedia and look under the sports section it says Winnipeg Jets (re-establishment), league = National Hockey League, venue = MTS Centre, established = 2011, championships = 0. Go to Click on the link and it says page does not exist, therefore its only a rumor the NHL is going back to Winnipeg because you can't lie on Wikipedia or the internet for that matter. This leads me to summize that Gary Bettman must be in charge of Wikipedia because he doesn't want anymore Canadians teams and he never wants another Canadian team to win the cup.

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#31 Dan the Man
May 20 2011, 10:01AM
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I couldn't be happier for the city of Winnepeg.

The first thing they should do though is shore up their goaltending....Bryzgalov is a UFA right?

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#32 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
May 20 2011, 10:05AM
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rubbertrout wrote:

It is amazing to me that the words "zeitgeist" and "Winnipeg" can appear in the same article.

Good show.

Now there is a free agent destination worse than Edmonton.

I don't quite know where this sentiment is coming from. I've lived in Edmonton and I live in Winnipeg right now. Winnipeg's summers are actually a little nicer than Edmonton's, and the winters are probably about the same. The travel schedule will be a little easier for a team in Winnipeg, especially once the new airport terminal opens in 2012. I would imagine Winnipeg and Edmonton will be nearly identical in terms of where players want to play.

Edit: The nightlife is better in Edmonton, but the restaurant scene in Winnipeg is outstanding (except that you can't get a donair here, ever). Roads are better in Edmonton, but there's the whole cabin/cottage scene in Manitoba with all the lakes.

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#33 Quicksilver ballet
May 20 2011, 10:17AM
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As hockey fans, Winnipeg certainly hasn't missed much since moving in the mid 90's. Since the yr the Jets left i think the Oilers have only made the playoffs 4 times in the 15 yrs. During this span, both Edmonton and Calgary have been like kids showing at a fantasy draft, not knowing their only there to pad the pot.

Believe me, you haven't missed much since 96.

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#34 DieselDave
May 20 2011, 11:00AM
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Is that a picture of Winnipeg? I didn't know they had tall buildings.

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#35 Ender
May 20 2011, 11:29AM
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positivebrontefan wrote:

jetnation.com goes to the NY Jets website. Would you still be able to do a jetsnation?

Wanye wrote:

I bet they call them the Manitoba Jets. Mark my dang words on this*

*Said the guy who bought jetsnation.ca a few weeks ago to get ready.

I think it's taken care of, as long as they call them the Jets. Unfortunately, there's already been a lot of talk that they won't be the Jets, which renders the whole 'jetsnation' subject kind of moot.

Jets or not, I'm pretty sure they'll have their own Nation site.

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#36 RDS
May 20 2011, 12:18PM
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So which West conference team moves over to the East? I'm assuming the Winnipeg team would be a western conference team. Detroit? Chicago?

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#37 ubermiguel
May 20 2011, 12:29PM
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I'm looking forward to Jets Nation, Thrashers Nation, Moose Nation...whatever name they go with. Get in on the Winnipeg blogoshpere early Wayne!

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#38 Monaertchi
May 20 2011, 12:34PM
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RDS wrote:

So which West conference team moves over to the East? I'm assuming the Winnipeg team would be a western conference team. Detroit? Chicago?

Betty promised the Wings that they'd be the next Western team to move to the East, but rumours abound that the Jets/Moose will simply take Atlanta's spot in the SE div for next season.

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#39 Bruce
May 20 2011, 12:45PM
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Great stuff, Robert. I've missed the Jets, they were (the) one team we could always kick the crap out of.

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#40 Dave Lumley
May 20 2011, 12:59PM
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@Monaertchi

Nashville or Columbus would be naturals to move to the east. I would perfer to see the more competitive Predators in the east.

They should call them the Manitoba Mosquitos or just the plain old Winnipeg Insects, so we can enjoy crushing them.

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#41 buttermilk buscuits
May 20 2011, 01:01PM
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Lived near Winnipeg pretty much my entire life, but will always still cheer for the Oilers first..but will definitely be a very big fan of the Jets.. They gotta do whatever they gotta do to get that team name back..if they Call them the Moose or Falcons or something like that, tickets wouldnt sell the same..the Hardcore fans would go..but all those casual sports fans that show up only because its their home team, not because they are actually dedicated fans of the sport wont show because the Moose will always just be the Moose to them, plus the connection to Vancouver makes me almost throw up.. Went to an Oilers VS Vancouver Pre season game here in Winnipeg a few years ago..and believe it or not, Oilers jerseys were outnumbering Canucks almost two to one...

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#42 Wäx Män Riley
May 20 2011, 01:09PM
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backburner wrote:

This is great for Winnipeg, but I hope the fans will show up for the games like they support the Moose!

Here's another gem...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdh70xdZHK0&NR=1

As I like to say:

There is a Simpson's quote for every occasion.

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#43 Wäx Män Riley
May 20 2011, 01:12PM
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T.C. wrote:

This is awesome for Winnipeg!only problem is if they get a team won't cowtown want one too?

Hahahaa.... T.C.

Props...

Let another Canadian hockey rivalry begin!

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#44 Crusty Grit
May 20 2011, 01:13PM
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New name in-light of flooding:

~Manitoba Dykes

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#45 RDS
May 20 2011, 01:31PM
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I like the name Winnipeg Threshers. Has the agriculture feel to it. I also heard the Winnipeg Breached Dikes somewhere, but that one doesn't have the same ring to it.

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#46 HOFFFF
May 20 2011, 01:38PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

I couldn't be happier for the city of Winnepeg.

The first thing they should do though is shore up their goaltending....Bryzgalov is a UFA right?

How about a Khabibulin reunion? :)

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#47 Shane
May 20 2011, 01:50PM
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Here's one: The Winnipeg Flood, althoug the I here the NHL, Tru North Sports and Atlanta Spirit Group are all denying the deal, the Globe and Mail blew the whistle too soon

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#48 Ender
May 20 2011, 02:04PM
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Shane wrote:

Here's one: The Winnipeg Flood, althoug the I here the NHL, Tru North Sports and Atlanta Spirit Group are all denying the deal, the Globe and Mail blew the whistle too soon

Nothing is confirmed yet - that's true. But the Winnipeg mayor went on record as saying that the Jets are coming home. He doesn't say that unless he knows it's true.

The legal beagles are crossing the t's and dotting the i's, but at this point it's going to happen. If there was a major hurdle that could derail this deal, they'd have hit it by now and the people that matter wouldn't be saying what they're saying.

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#49 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
May 20 2011, 02:14PM
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I've heard a lot of names tossed around. To me, the smart money goes with Manitoba Jets (and a re-designed logo) as the new name. Jets gear has been selling here consistently for the past 15 years.

The fans are going to wear their Jets jerseys to every game, just like they wear it now to Moose games. It'd be bad PR for the first game back to have 15,003 fans wearing Jets gear if the team is named anything else...

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#50 BUCK75
May 20 2011, 02:51PM
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@ubermiguel

IN an almost related twist of fate, the Winnipeg Thrashers won the Telus Cup (National Midget Championship)this year. How is that for irony...

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