In the future, the NHL should think twice about placing a team in Winnipeg. That city’s first team played there from 1972 to 1980 before moving to Calgary. Winnipeg’s second try, the Jets, began play in 1999 as an expansion team (overall the league’s 28th franchise). The club moved to Winnipeg in 2011.
While in Winnipeg, the “Jets” qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs just once. This lack of success made it difficult to sell hockey tickets and precipitated the team’s sale and eventual relocation to Winnipeg. In the Great White North, the team from the Deep South had no problems selling NHL tickets. In the first hour of season ticket sales, the new Winnipeg franchise filled more than 1,800 orders. Three days later, season ticket sales eclipsed the 7,100 mark. When Jets season tickets were finally opened to the public, they sold out in 17 minutes. A wait list was halted after 8,000 people signed up in two hours.
Winnipeg Jets tickets sold rapidly despite the fact that the franchise had not yet decided on a name. The previous owners of the franchise still retained the rights to the “Jets” brand. Fortunately, Winnipeg’s previous NHL team, which now plays in Phoenix as the Coyotes (they split town in 1996), was owned by the league. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the new owners of the recently relocated Winnipeg franchise could use the epithet “Jets” if they so desired. Capitulating in the face of overwhelming demand, the franchise took the NHL up on their offer and named their team the Winnipeg Jets.
Jets tickets for their home opener sold for more $1,700 on the secondary ticket market. Sadly, fans saw their team fall to the Montreal Canadiens, 5-1. Nonetheless, the sold out crowd gave the home team a standing ovation. Scoring the first goal for the new Winnipeg Jets franchise was center Nik Antropov.
One of the highlights of the Jets inaugural season in Winnipeg was a home-and-home series against the Coyotes. Jets lost the first game, which was played in Phoenix, but defeated the Coyotes when they came to Winnipeg on Dec. 1, 2011. That game was the first time in 15 years the Phoenix Coyotes played in their former home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Jets are part of the Eastern Conference and play their home games at MTS Centre, located in downtown Winnipeg. The owners of the Jets, True North Sports & Entertainment, also own the MTS Centre. Some of the all-time great Jets/Jets include Iilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Slava Kozlov, and Marc Savard.