Winnipeg Jets (1972–96)

The Winnipeg Jets were a professional ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They began play in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1972. The club joined the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979 after the NHL merged with the WHA. Due to mounting financial troubles, in 1996 the franchise moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes). In 2011, The struggling Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg and restored the Jets name, although the prior Jets club history is retained by the Arizona club (the new Jets did acknowledge the original Jets as part of the 2016 Heritage Classic festivities).

Winnipeg Jets
List of Winnipeg Jets (1972–96) seasons
HistoryWinnipeg Jets
19721979 (WHA)
19791996 (NHL)
Phoenix Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes
Home arenaWinnipeg Arena
CityWinnipeg, Manitoba
ColoursBlue, red, white
General managerFull list
Head coachFull list
Stanley Cups0
Avco World Trophy3 (1975–76, 1977–78, 1978–79)
Conference championships0
Presidents' Trophy0
Division championships3 (1972–73, 1975–76, 1977–78)

Franchise history

The WHA years (1972–1979)

The NHL had recently expanded to 16 teams, adding franchises in many hockey-hungry cities (only one in Canada), but also in Atlanta, Oakland and Los Angeles. The WHA brought major professional hockey to Ottawa, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and later Calgary. On December 27, 1971, Winnipeg was granted one of the founding franchises in the WHA. The original owner was Ben Hatskin, a local figure who made his wealth in cardboard shipping containers.[1] The team took their name from the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Canada Hockey League.[2]

The Jets' first signing was Norm Beaudin, ("the Original Jet") while the first major signing was Bobby Hull. Hull's acquisition, partially financed by the rest of the WHA's teams, gave the league instant credibility and paved the way for other NHL stars to bolt to the upstart league.

The Jets were further noteworthy in hockey history for being the first North American club seriously to explore Europe as a source of hockey talent. Winnipeg's fortunes were bolstered by acquisitions such as Swedish forwards Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, who starred with Hull on the WHA's most famous and successful forward line (nicknamed "the Hot Line"), and defenceman Lars-Erik Sjoberg, who would serve as the team's captain and win accolades as the WHA's best defenceman. Behind these players and other European stars such as Willy Lindstrom, Kent Nilsson, Veli-Pekka Ketola, leavened by players such as Peter Sullivan, Norm Beaudin and goaltender Joe Daley, the Jets were the most successful team in the short-lived WHA. The team won the Avco World Trophy three times, including in the league's final season against Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. The Jets made the finals in five of the WHA's seven seasons, winning three of them.

Another notable accomplishment was the Jets' 5–3 victory over the Soviet National team on January 5, 1978.[3]

In the WHA's last season, Kent Nilsson had 107 points, while Morris Lukowich had 65 goals, and Peter Sullivan had 46 goals and 86 points. The Jets made it to the Avco Cup and Gary Smith gave up the last goal in WHA history to Dave Semenko in a 7–3 Jets win.[4]

Career leaders (WHA)

The 1976, 1978 and 1979 Avco Cup winning Winnipeg Jets were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in the team category.

The NHL years (1979–1996)

By 1979, the vast majority of the WHA's teams had folded, but the Jets were still going strong. After the season, the Jets were absorbed into the NHL along with the Nordiques, Oilers and Hartford Whalers. Pre-merger inter-league exhibitions had shown that the 1978-79 WHA Jets were the competitive equal of most NHL teams, with the possible exceptions of the three-time defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens and the rising New York Islanders.

However, the Jets had to pay a very high price for a berth in the more established league. They had to give up three of their top six scorers – the core of the last WHA champion – in a reclamation draft. They were also forced to draft 18th out of 21 teams. In the draft, they opted to protect defenceman Scott Campbell, who had shown a good deal of promise in the last WHA season. However, Campbell suffered from chronic asthma that was only exacerbated by Winnipeg's frigid weather. The asthma drove him out of the league entirely by 1982.

Upon entering the NHL, the Jets were based in the Smythe Division of the Campbell Conference. However, with a decimated roster, the Jets finished dead last in the league for their first two seasons in the NHL, including a horrendous nine-win season in 1980–81 that still ranks as the worst in Jets/Coyotes history. This stands in marked contrast to the other 1979 Avco Cup finalist, the Oilers, who went on to dominate the league during the second half of the 1980s.

The Jets' first two wretched NHL seasons did net them high draft picks; in the 1980 draft they picked Dave Babych second overall and in 1981 they drafted future Hall of Fame member Dale Hawerchuk first overall. The team developed a solid core of players by the mid-1980s, with Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Paul MacLean, Randy Carlyle, Laurie Boschman, Doug Smail, and David Ellett providing a strong nucleus. Also in 1981, a league-wide realignment placed the Jets with the league's other Central Time Zone teams in the Norris Division, which over the course of the decade would become the weakest division in the league.

Led by Hawerchuk, Steen, Babych and Carlyle, the Jets returned to respectability fairly quickly, and made the playoffs 11 times in the next 15 years. However, regular-season success did not transfer over into the playoffs. This was because after just one season in the Norris, the relocation of the Colorado Rockies to New Jersey compelled Winnipeg to return to the more competitive Smythe Division along with the Oilers and Calgary Flames – by some accounts, the two best teams in the league during the second half of the 1980s. Due to the way the playoffs were structured at the time, whenever the Jets made the playoffs, they faced the near-certainty of having to beat either the Oilers or the Flames (or both) to get to the Campbell Conference Finals. At the time, the top four teams in each division made the playoffs, with the regular-season division winner playing against the fourth-place team and the regular-season runner-up playing the third-place team in the division semifinals. The division semifinal winners advanced to the division finals, and the two division final winners would meet in the conference finals.

For example, in 1984–85, they finished with the fourth-best record in the entire league (behind only Philadelphia, Edmonton and Washington). They also notched 96 points, which would remain the franchise's best as an NHL team until the 2009–10 Coyotes racked up the franchise's second 100-point season (and first as an NHL team). However, they finished second in the Smythe behind the Oilers. While they managed to dispatch the Flames (with the league's fifth-best record) in four games in the best-of-five division semifinal, they were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Oilers in the division final. In fact, Winnipeg and Edmonton played each other in the playoffs six times between 1983 and 1990. The Oilers not only won every series, but held the Jets to only four total victories. Five of those times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990), the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Jets would win only one other playoff series, in 1987 (defeating Calgary in the division semifinal before losing to Edmonton in the division final). It was not until the 1993-94 season that further expansion and re-alignment permitted the original Jets to return to the re-branded Central Division (the former Norris Division) of the Western Conference. By this time however, the Central was at least the competitive equal of the re-named Pacific Division and the strict division-based playoff bracket had been abandoned (it would return in a more limited form in 2013 alongside the re-alignment that returned Winnipeg to the Central after its sixteen-year absence from the NHL).

Demise and relocation

As the NHL expanded in the United States and free agency rules were liberalized, operating costs and salaries grew rapidly. This development hit the league's Canadian teams particularly hard. Moreover, the revised free agency rules gave players the leverage to demand being paid their salaries in U.S. dollars league-wide. Until about the early 1990s, Canadian teams were able to pay most of their players in Canadian dollars, with the only exceptions being contracts acquired in trades from U.S. teams. However, since the Canadian teams still collected most of their revenue in Canadian dollars (and still do today), having to pay players in U.S. dollars proved to be a serious drain on finances given the declining value of the Canadian dollar. By 1996, the exchange rate was $1.40 Canadian for each American dollar. Winnipeg felt the pinch especially hard, as it had always been one of the smallest markets in the league. For most of their NHL tenure, Winnipeg was the league's second-smallest market, and became the smallest market after the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver as the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Despite a loyal fan following, serious doubts were raised about whether Winnipeg could support an NHL team in this new environment. Additionally, their home arena, Winnipeg Arena, was over 40 years old, had no luxury suites, and numerous obstructed-view seats.

Attempts to find a local buyer were unsuccessful, with league commissioner Gary Bettman saying, "there doesn't seem to be anybody, in a serious fashion, who wants to own the franchise."[5] After an eleventh-hour effort by a team of local businessmen, dubbed the Spirit of Manitoba, fell through, team owner Barry Shenkarow sold the team to American businessmen Steven Gluckstern and Richard Burke.[5] Burke and Gluckstern originally planned to move the team to Minnesota (which had lost the North Stars to Dallas in 1993), but when negotiations for a lease agreement with the landlords of the Target Center fell through, the new owners eventually reached an agreement with Phoenix businessman Jerry Colangelo that saw the team move to Arizona and become the Phoenix Coyotes. The Winnipeg Jets played their last-ever game on April 28, 1996, a home playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 4–1. Norm Maciver scored the last goal in Jets history.[6]

Winnipeg was not without hockey for long, however; the International Hockey League's Minnesota Moose moved to Winnipeg as the Manitoba Moose a few months after it was announced that the Jets were leaving town. The team later joined the American Hockey League as the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks when the IHL collapsed.

During their history, the Jets retired two numbers: Bobby Hull's #9 and Thomas Steen's #25. Both numbers hang in the Coyotes' current home, Gila River Arena, in the Jets' old blue-red-white colour scheme. Dale Hawerchuk's No. 10 was added in 2006, in the Coyotes' current sand-red-black scheme. Another tradition that was retained when the franchise moved to Phoenix was the "whiteout", in which fans wore all white to home playoff games. The franchise finally won a playoff series in 2012, their first in 25 years, en route to reaching the Conference Finals for the first time where they were defeated by the eventual champions Los Angeles Kings. Hull's No. 9 jersey was temporarily unretired with the acquisition of his son Brett by the Coyotes. Brett wore his father's famous jersey until his own retirement on October 15, 2005, subsequent to which the number was re-retired.

In their new market, the Coyotes have continued to struggle both on and off the ice, culminating in a bankruptcy in 2009. The NHL took over the franchise late in the 2008–09 season. In the midst of the league's search for a new Coyotes owner, True North Sports and Entertainment made two bids with the intent of returning the franchise to Winnipeg. True North also considered buying the Nashville Predators, likely to move it to Winnipeg.[7][8][9] These bids were turned down only after the league reached an agreement with the municipal government, which agreed to subsidize the Coyotes' losses in order to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, so True North turned its attention to the financially struggling Atlanta Thrashers, moving it to Winnipeg to become the second incarnation of the Jets (see below).[10][11] The team finally broke its playoff series drought in 2011–12, a season in which they won their first division title as an NHL team (in Winnipeg or Phoenix) and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Final. The Coyotes have not qualified for the playoffs since then.

Former Coyotes' team captain Shane Doan, who was drafted seventh overall by the Jets in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft prior to their last season in Winnipeg, and played his rookie season in Winnipeg, played his entire career for the Jets/Coyotes franchise. Doan was the last player from the original Jets to still be active in the NHL until his retirement in 2017. The only other former original Jets' player that was active in professional ice hockey was Deron Quint, who last played in the German DEL in Germany until 2017.

Winnipeg Whiteout

The Winnipeg Whiteout is a hockey tradition that dates back to 1987 when fans were asked to wear white clothing to home playoff games, creating a very intimidating effect and atmosphere. It was created as a response to the "C of Red" created by fans of the Calgary Flames, whom the home-town Jets were facing in the first round of the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs.[12] The Jets eliminated the Flames in six games, and fans wore white for every home playoff game thereafter. Fans dubbed it the "White Out" which is a prairie term for a winter snow storm. Marketing for the team during the playoff referred to the "charge of the white brigade." In later years, marketing referred to the Whiteout as "White Noise."

Fans of the AHL franchise Manitoba Moose also continued this tradition when the team briefly relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland, as the St. John's IceCaps, as did fans of the "IceCap's White Out"[13] and "Coyotes White Out,"[14] respectively. When the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg as the second incarnation of the Jets, they brought back the White Out tradition for the 2015 and 2018 playoffs.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties minutes

WHA era

1972–737843314902852497571st, WesternWon Quarterfinals (Fighting Saints) 4–1
Won Semifinals (Aeros) 4–0
Lost Finals (Whalers) 4–1
1973–747834395732642966734th, WesternLost Quarterfinals (Aeros) 4–0
1974–757838355813222938693rd, CanadianDid not qualify
1975–7681522721063452549401st, CanadianWon Quarterfinals (Oilers) 4–0
Won Semifinals (Cowboys) 4–1
Won Avco Cup Finals (Aeros) 4–0
1976–778046322943662919912nd, WesternWon Quarterfinals (Mariners) 4–3
Won Semifinals (Aeros) 4–2
Lost Finals (Nordiques) 4–3
1977–7880502821023812709881st, WHAWon Quarterfinals (Bulls) 4–1
Won Avco Cup Finals (Whalers) 4–0
1978–7980393568430730613423rd, WHAWon Semifinals (Nordiques) 4–0
Won Avco Cup Finals (Oilers) 4–2
WHA totals555302227266302,2701,9586,560

NHL era

1979–8080204911512143141,2515th, SmytheDid not qualify
1980–818095714322464001,1915th, SmytheDid not qualify
1981–8280333314803193321,3142nd, NorrisLost Division Semifinals (Blues) 3–1
1982–838033398743113331,0894th, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Oilers) 3–0
1983–8480313811733403741,5794th, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Oilers) 3–0
1984–8580432710963583321,5402nd, SmytheWon Division Semifinals (Flames) 3–1
Lost Division Finals (Oilers) 4–0
1985–868026477592953721,7743rd, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Flames) 3–0
1986–878040328882792711,5373rd, SmytheWon Division Semifinals (Flames) 4–2
Lost Division Finals (Oilers) 4–0
1987–8880333611772923102,2783rd, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Oilers) 4–1
1988–8980264212643003551,8435th, SmytheDid not qualify
1989–9080373211852982901,6393rd, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Oilers) 4–3
1990–9180264311632602881,6755th, SmytheDid not qualify
1991–9280333215812512441,9074th, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Canucks) 4–3
1992–938440377873223201,8514th, SmytheLost Division Semifinals (Canucks) 4–2
1993–948424519572453442,1436th, CentralDid not qualify
1994–9514816257391571771,1416th, CentralDid not qualify
1995–968236406782752911,6225th, CentralLost Conference Quarterfinals (Red Wings) 4–2
Relocated to Phoenix
NHL totals133850666017211844762534727374


Notable players

Team captains

Note: This list includes Jets captains from both the NHL and WHA.

First round draft picks

Note: This list includes draft picks from both the NHL and WHA.

Hall of Famers

Retired numbers

The Winnipeg Jets retired two numbers in their history. When the Jets relocated to Arizona, the banners of these players also made the move, and these numbers remain retired with the Arizona Coyotes, in Jets' colors. After the move to Arizona, number 10 was retired in honor of Dale Hawerchuk, number 7 was retired for Keith Tkachuk, and number 27 was retired for Teppo Numminen.

Winnipeg Jets retired numbers
No. Player Position Career No. retirement
91Bobby HullLW1972–1980February 19, 1989
25Thomas SteenRW1981–1995May 6, 1995


  • 1 Bobby Hull's number was temporarily unretired by the successor Coyotes franchise for Bobby's son Brett in the 2005–06 season before his son Brett retired five games into that season.

Franchise scoring leaders

These are the top-ten-point-scorers in Winnipeg Jets history, combining NHL and WHA totals.

Legend: Pos = Position; GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game

Dale HawerchukC7133795509291.30
Thomas SteenRW950264553817.86
Bobby HullLW4293073416481.51
Paul MacLeanRW527248270518.98
Ulf NilssonC3001403444841.61
Anders HedbergRW2862362224581.60
Willy LindstromRW604220229449.74
Morris LukowichLW511233213446.87
Doug SmailLW691189208397.58
Laurie BoschmanLW526152227379.72

Winnipeg Jets individual records

  • Most goals in a season: Teemu Selanne, 76 (1992–93; NHL rookie record)
  • Most assists in a season: Phil Housley, 79 (1992–93)
  • Most points in a season: Teemu Selanne 132 (1992–93; NHL rookie record)
  • Most penalty minutes in a season: Tie Domi, 347 (1993–94)
  • Most points in a season, defenceman: Phil Housley, 97 (1992–93)
  • Most points in a season, rookie: Teemu Selanne, 132 (1992–93; NHL record)
  • Most wins in a season: Brian Hayward and Bob Essensa, 33 (1984–85 and 1992–93)

See also


  1. Scott Adam Surgent, The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association, Xaler Press, 1995. Pg.58
  2. Scott Adam Surgent, Pg.114
  3. Cole, Stephen (2006). The Canadian Hockey Atlas. Doubleday Canada. p. 232. ISBN 978-03-8566-093-8.
  4. Willes, Ed (2004). The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association. Toronto: McLelland and Stewart. p. 241. ISBN 978-07-7108-947-3.
  5. "Bettman and the Jets: Tales from the NHL's flight from Winnipeg". Toronto Star. May 3, 1995. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  6. "Detroit Red Wings at Winnipeg Jets Box Score, April 28, 1996 |". Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  7. "Winnipeg's NHL dreams dashed again – Need to know". Maclean's. May 12, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  8. Nick Ternette (November 3, 2010). "Coyote question: Is Phoenix an NHL market?". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  9. "NHL Attendance Leaders". ESPN. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
  10. "True North also had talks about buying Predators, Coyotes". National Post. June 2, 2011. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  11. Tucker T (June 1, 2011). "Waddell's job, Thrashers name will end with sale". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved June 4, 2011.
  12. Sigurdson, Hal (April 18, 1987). "Whiteout aside, defence tells tale". Winnipeg Free Press. p. 83.
  13. "Wear-White-and-Be-Loud!".
  14. "It's-Time-For-White-Out-2012".
Further reading
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