Winnipeg Jets: From Gold to Beige

NHL hockey returned to Winnipeg in a blaze of glory in 2011.

From NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s confirmation that the Atlanta Thrashers had been sold to True North at the MTS Centre on May 31st, 2011, to the approval of the sale and relocation by the NHL Board of Governors at their June 21st meeting; it was all met with joy in both Manitoba and the wider hockey community.

Jets opened the season 2011/12 season on home ice; it ended in a 5-1 loss to Montreal, but felt like the righting of a wrong to many.

So why do the Jets seem so indifferent now?

Ok, that’s not strictly true. Anyone associated with the franchise is still treated like a hero in Winnipeg itself, which is understandable given the 15 years absence of NHL hockey in the city – the honeymoon is still going on for many. The passion and humour of the Winnipeg fan base cannot be questioned in all this. They have been nothing short of superb since the Jets returned.

The franchise itself? Well…

Today’s ‘condemnation’ of the Helmet Pardy was, well, sad.

An idea which poked fun at a rival team, inspired a fan base and made the whole league that little bit more enjoyable (because everyone loves crazy stuff like this) was shut down by management.

The Jets official statement read as follows:

Earlier this week, we learned of a media-promoted stunt to have Winnipeg Jets fans wear helmets to the game on Thursday, November 21st versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

I would like to let our fans know we in no way endorse this idea and in fact and wish to personally advise that we will not permit fans to wear such headgear at tomorrow’s game.

The Chicago Blackhawks organization, for whom we hold a great deal of respect, conducted themselves with the highest degree of professionalism in the wake of the unfortunate incident on November 6th. We immediately received apologies from Team President & Governor John McDonough & General Manager Stan Bowman. The Blackhawks organization have also personally expressed their gratitude to Winnipeg Jets defenceman Adam Pardy for the way in which he handled himself in a very difficult situation. As well, the particular individual involved that night has extended a sincere apology to Adam and our organization. He is extremely remorseful and has made an unnecessary yet very meaningful donation to the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation.

I sincerely believe we have the best fans in the entire National Hockey League. Their passion for the game is unequaled. However, this is about professionalism and respect for our great game and for the NHL. These are principles we attempt to follow in all aspects of how we play and present the game of hockey. Adam Pardy exemplified these characteristics and I am confident Winnipeg Jets fans will display that same respect and professionalism this Thursday by refraining from participating in this stunt and not wearing helmets to tomorrow’s game.

There we go. Because the Blackhawk’s acted in a professional manner, and the Hawks fan who cheekily swiped Adam Pardy’s helmet made an apologetic charity donation, fun is banned from the MTS Center on Thursday.

The helmet swiping shenanigans in Chicago amused many. It perhaps wasn’t the most appropriate of actions (like putting a traffic cone on your head whilst drunk and Instagramming a picture of it); but this wasn’t a riot, a fan jumping in to the penalty box or a player trying to punch a spectator.

I am sure the Blackhawks were embarrassed by it, understandably in some ways, but surely it was a case of ‘no harm, no foul, laughs had’?

Likewise, CITI FM DJ Dave Wheelers novel response to that incident in the Windy City was born out of good humour.

So why nix it? Why stop fans wearing head gear to the game? If it was a safety issue, say so. Heck, Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy made a great suggestion – why not hand out those cardboard hats seen in Europe or at the World Juniors?

Maybe someone just can’t wait to see a guys hatless butt thrown in jail?

This all feels some how typical of the Jets though. Button that collar up, straighten that tie, no high fives to celebrate a goal…

This is the team that has never fired anyone (they were still the Thrashers when Rick Dudley was axed). They’ve never traded anyone away either.

A couple of guys have been allowed to walk away, but ultimately True North brought a team which has only made the post season once in its entire history, and then stuck with it…

The Jets owners don’t have the same history as, say, Philadelphia when it comes to staff turn over – with the Manitoba Moose rarely seeing major change in the front office. But after two further seasons of early tee times and a 10-10-3 record so far this season, at some point something has to give.

It’s almost stereotypically Canadian to be so nice, so patient. But how long do you stick with a below average team?

And how long do the fans stick with a below average team that also will ‘piss on their bonfire’ over something as inconsequential as wearing a hat to a game?

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on November 20, 2013, in Hockey, NHL, Winnipeg Jets and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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