WINNIPEG, CANADA - OCTOBER 9: Winnipeg fans cheer before the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens game at the MTS Centre on October 9, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The game is Winnipeg's first NHL regular season game in 15 years. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
Winnipeg Jets fans are excited to have NHL hockey back in town, but let's get one thing straight: Just because they're named the Jets, it doesn't mean that the same team is back. The Jets play in Phoenix. The new Jets are the Atlanta Thrashers.
Considering they didn't have any original coverage of their own, NHL Network did a pretty decent job with their coverage of the Winnipeg Jets return to the league on Sunday afternoon. In the United States, they simply simulcasted CBC's game coverage, which is always as top-notch as top notch gets, and as their lead in, they broadcast the last game in Winnipeg back in 1996 -- a Game 6 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the postseason.
During that game telecast (which included FOX robots and everything, by the way) they mentioned several times how the team would be off to Phoenix for next season. Of course, there's still a team that plays in Phoenix these days. I think they're called the Coyotes or something, and in their arena, there are these nifty blue and white banners that celebrate their heritage as the Winnipeg Jets.
Everything that's surrounded this return of the Winnipeg Jets this summer has been worded as exactly that: a return that's not really much of a return at all. Yes, the NHL has returned to Winnipeg. Yes, the new team is called the Jets.
But the Winnipeg Jets have not returned to town. That team plays home games in Arizona., and they'll actually return to Winnipeg on December 1.
Franchises usually carry their history with them when they relocate, at least to a certain extent. The Carolina Hurricanes use the same exact goal horn that was used at the Hartford Civic Center when the team was the Whalers. The Dallas Stars have basically the same team name as their predecessor, the Minnesota North Stars. The Coyotes make a home for those Jets banners and continue the whiteout tradition during the playoffs.
For the new Jets, however, it's as if the Atlanta Thrashers never existed. When the Thrashers entered the league in 2000, it wasn't the "return of the Atlanta Flames!", was it?
It's total slap in the face to those who worked for that team and lost jobs, as well as the fans who actually did support the Thrashers during their time in the NHL. It's disrespectful, and yeah, we get it that those in Winnipeg generally don't have all that much respect for hockey fans in Atlanta. But for two cities that couldn't be any more different from each other away from the hockey arena, the one emotion they can share best is that of losing a team.
Jets fans lost their team in 1996 for many of the same exact reasons Thrashers fans lost theirs a few months ago: Money problems and the absence of solid local ownership. You'd think that would bring some sort of bond, but instead the Jets have decided to completely ignore the fact that this team played in Atlanta a year ago.
The only reminder now is that they awkwardly still sit in the Southeast Division. Other than that, it's as if the Thrashers never existed.
Morning Skates runs weekdays. Check the archives.