The Jets will fly again

The Winnipeg Jets are back.

I could type that over and over again. The Winnipeg Jets are back. It’s one thing to have the NHL back, but it’s another thing entirely to get your old franchise identity back as well. Just ask Minnesota Wild fans.

Since Mark Chipman and TNSE announced the return of the NHL on May 31, a public debate regarding the new team’s name raged. A majority of the fans proclaimed that the team had to be called the Jets, with most adding that it needed to be Winnipeg Jets, not Manitoba Jets. But others disagreed, reasoning that the Winnipeg Jets identity died when the team left for Phoenix in 1996.

Rumoured names circulated around the city as everyone speculated what the team was going to be called. Manitoba Falcons. Manitoba Polar Bears. Manitoba Blizzards. These names floated around Internet forums and social media sites, with people offering justifications, explaining how the Falcons moniker would pay homage to the 1920 Winnipeg Falcons who won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal or how Polar Bears ties the province together, from Churchill to the new polar bear exhibit being renovated at the Assiniboine Zoo. Oh, and we’ve still got those Bears on Broadway statues scattered around the city! What a cute tie in.

No matter what justification was given for a new name, there was just no stopping the momentum that the Jets name had. On May 19, when the Globe and Mail released a Stephen Brunt article in which he suggested that the Thrasher deal had been completed, hundreds of Winnipeggers swarmed Portage and Main decked out in Jets gear. The historic intersection has been the backdrop for significant moments in Jets history, most notably the marquee signing of Bobby Hull in 1972. The instinctive reaction to head down to Portage and Main to celebrate a huge event is as ingrained in Winnipegger’s minds as the phrase “go Jets go.”

The passion for the Winnipeg Jets never really went away, but for many the thought of the NHL ever returning to Winnipeg was unfathomable. Once the deal was confirmed, support for naming the team the Jets really took off. An online petition to convince True North to name the team the Winnipeg Jets reached 13,678 signatures by the time the official decision was announced during the first round of the NHL entry draft.

And when it was time to unveil the name, Chipman and company delivered in spectacular, yet typically understated, fashion. With thousands of proud fans watching the scoreboard at the MTS Centre as the entry draft unfolded in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mark Chipman took the mic as the organization prepared to announce their first-round draft pick.

“It’s now my pleasure to introduce our executive vice-president and general manager, Mr. Kevin Cheveldayoff, who will make our first pick . . . on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets.”

The dramatic pause, the faint nuances in the delivery. For all those who were at the draft or at the MTS Centre watching, that moment is etched into their memories forever. It was a moment in which dreams became reality, wrongs became right again and a goal that seemed so improbable back in 1997 was finally realized. The Winnipeg Jets are back.

Not only was going with the Jets name the right decision for the fans, but True North is now set to cash in big time with merchandise sales. Between the day of the official relocation announcement and the day of the draft, Jets merchandise flew off retailers’ shelves. Once the name was officially announced, even more folks rushed out to stock up on Jets stuff. With a redesigned logo on its way, TNSE is in great position to cash in big time.

Its been a long time coming for Winnipeg Jets fans. When October 9th finally rolls around and the Winnipeg Jets host their first home opener since 1995, this city should be rocking with perhaps the strongest showing of fan support in Winnipeg sports history. The Winnipeg Jets are back, and they’re here to stay!

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