During the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft, it was repeatedly mentioned that the last time the Winnipeg Jets drafted a player it was also seventh overall and that player was Shane Doan. Technically that’s true: The last time someone walked up to the podium and selected a player in the first round on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets, that player was Shane Doan.
Of course, Shane Doan still plays in the NHL for the Phoenix Coyotes: the team that drafted him.
In reality, the last time the franchise that is now the Winnipeg Jets drafted a player in the first round it was 2010 and Aleksandr Burmistrov was chosen eighth overall by the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Winnipeg Jets website mentions the team’s previous identity as the Atlanta Thrashers in their “draft history” page. According to their official site, the top five picks in franchise history are Ondrej Pavelec, Tobias Enstrom, Kari Lehtonen, Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk. There is no mention of Shane Doan, Nikolai Khabibulin, Teemu Selanne or any other players that were drafted by the original Winnipeg Jets team.
And their shouldn’t be.
Those players were drafted by the team that is now the Phoenix Coyotes. They’re certainly a big part of hockey history in Winnipeg, but they’re not a part of the history of the current Winnipeg Jets.
Dale Hawerchuk isn’t the leading scorer in the history of these Winnipeg Jets, Ilya Kovalchuk is.
On Friday, Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy said that the new Winnipeg Jets are ignoring the history of the Atlanta Thrashers.
The way the ownership group has behaved since that presser a few weeks back has been positively abhorrent. That’s their prerogative, one supposes, but the handling of the transfer of the team from Atlanta to Winnipeg has been completed with a stunning lack of tact and what seems to be an broad contempt.
They jerked around the team’s employees in Atlanta; it was reported somewhere or another that many weren’t officially told the team was moving to Winnipeg until the day before the Board of Governors approved the sale.
Then after gutting an admittedly moribund front office, the team told Craig Ramsay, their very good head coach who briefly performed alchemy to make a subaverage team relevant in the division, that he would be welcome to interview for his own job.
This, of course, meant that he would not be able to keep it, but hey, it was the decent thing to do. If “decent” means “really awful.” He ended up getting the boot, despite having done nothing wrong or even poorly, just because the franchise wanted to do everything in its power to rid itself of all that American South stink the team had around it.
Further evidence? Go to the team’s official website and look at the franchise’s all-time roster. Why, no one is on there. It’s as if the Thrashers never existed. How remarkably arrogant and profoundly nationalistic.
Sure, the Thrashers were far the most successful team in NHL history, but they still existed. The Calgary Flames use the Atlanta Flames logo on the jerseys of their alternate captains as a way to embrace their history.
But what history will these Winnipeg Jets embrace?
Recognizing the history of NHL hockey in Winnipeg certainly includes remembering Doan and Selanne and Hawerchuk and many others. The fact remains that this current team technically has nothing to do with the original Winnipeg Jets. This team is the Atlanta Thrashers and that is the history these Jets should recognize.
However, we could foresee some problems with having a completely separate history from the original Winnipeg Jets.
Evander Kane wears number nine for the Winnipeg Jets. Right?
Technically there’s no problem with assigning Kane number nine on whatever jersey the Jets decide to wear. However, the original Winnipeg Jets retired that number for Bobby Hull. But that banner is in Phoenix. It was temporarily unretired when Bobby’s son Brett played in Phoenix, so the Coyotes franchise certainly respect the retirement.
Do the new Jets?
They could retire the number, but they’d technically be retiring the number of a player who never played for their franchise. However, it would seem weird to have a number nine Jets jersey with a name on the back that isn’t Hull.
Perhaps this is why True North took so long to announce the name. It’s difficult to honor the history of the original Winnipeg Jets while also maintaining that the current team is a separate entity.
If you think this is difficult, imagine if the Phoenix Coyotes moved to Quebec City and became the Quebec Nordiques. They’d also be the Phoenix Coyotes and the original Winnipeg Jets and, of course, the original Nordiques are now the Colorado Avalanche.
Moving a team is always messy, even if it’s replacing a team that once moved.