Aug 17, 2020
We cross the virtual border northward this week to obsess about the original incarnation of hockey's Winnipeg Jets - with author/team completist Curtis Walker ("Winnipeg Jets: The WHA Years Day By Day"; "Coming Up Short: The Comprehensive History of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets").
One of the twelve founding franchises in the upstart World Hockey Association's inaugural 1972-73 season, the Jets were one of only four teams to survive the entire run of the rebel league - and to ascend into the vaunted NHL after its demise in 1979.
They were also, arguably, the WHA's most successful club - winning three of the league's seven-ever AVCO Cup championships, while finishing as playoff runners-up twice. (We'll get into the story of the Houston Aeros' two titles and one finals loss in another episode!)
Walker helps us proverbially "scratch the surface" of the Jets' intriguing history in not only the WHA (including the credibility-validating, league-collective-funded signing of Bobby Hull; the Swedish-flavored "Hot Line" contributions of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson; and a franchise-saving "Save the Jets" community campaign in 1974) - but also the National Hockey League, where the club largely struggled to reclaim their earlier glory - especially when facing their long-time regional nemesis, the Edmonton Oilers.
Of course, we tackle the delicate issue of where the original Jets' legacy should credibly reside: with the lamentable Arizona Coyotes (the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996); the current Jets team (the relocated Atlanta Thrashers since 2011); or in the collective memories of the fans that routinely packed the rafters of the old Winnipeg Arena.