When the Winnipeg Jets made their return to the NHL in 2011, it was a long time coming. The team originally left the city back in 1996 due to a bunch of financial problems. They definitely didn’t leave due to a lack of passionate fans. The fans rallied to keep the team in Winnipeg, but there was only so much they could do. As a Winnipeg Jet player, it’s hard not to love playing for a fan base that is so devoted to the team.
Flash forward to 2011, where the hockey fans were just as passionate and more importantly, Winnipeg had a new arena. The fans at the MTS Centre have built a reputation of being one of the loudest crowds in the league. It makes it easier getting up for game days knowing you get to play for fans like that.
While playing for a team with a die-hard fan base is mostly a positive thing, it does have a few drawbacks. As a player on the Winnipeg Jets, you are always being judged on and off the ice. If you perform well, you are almost treated like your godlike. If you underperform, you can be quickly run out of town. When you add the fact that Winnipeg isn’t the most attractive city compared to other NHL cities, it’s not hard to see that playing in Winnipeg is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Here are 8 players who loved being a Winnipeg Jet, and 7 players who hated it.
15. Loved: Jim Kyte
Jim Kyte was a defenseman who played for the Jets for six seasons. When it comes to his playing style, he was definitely no Dave Ellett, but he was a solid stay at home defenseman. Kyte became a fan favorite in Winnipeg due to the fact that he was never scared to drop the gloves. He may have never recorded more than 12 points with the Jets in any given season, but he was always among the leaders on the team when it came to time spent in the penalty box.
His run with the Jets ended in 1989 when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although he continued to play until 1997, he would never get a full-time role on an NHL team after leaving the Jets. Kyte loved his time in Winnipeg, saying it had a family atmosphere like he never experienced in any other NHL city.
14. Hated: Eric Fehr
Eric Fehr spent the first five seasons of his NHL career as a member of the Washington Capitals. While with the Capitals he became a great two-way NHL player. His best season came in 2009-10 when scored a career-high 21 goals and 39 points.
Fehr’s time as Capital came to an end when in 2011 he was acquired by the Winnipeg Jets. The Winkler, Manitoba-born Fehr was coming back home and he looked like a solid addition to the Jets lineup. The 2011-12 season ended up his only one in Winnipeg, and it was a terrible season to say the least. Fehr battled shoulder problems, but even when he was healthy he often found himself a healthy scratch. Fehr played just 35 games for Jets and recorded a pathetic three points. Fehr is a perfect example of why playing close home might not necessarily be a good thing.
13. Loved: Andrew Ladd
Andrew Ladd was the first captain of the Winnipeg Jets, when the team came over from Atlanta in 2011. Being the captain of a team that plays in a hockey mad city like Winnipeg comes with a ton of pressure. For the most part, Ladd was an excellent leader. He had the best offensive seasons of his career as a Jet, and always had a great work ethic. His best season came in 2014-15 when he recorded a career-high 62 points and led the franchise to just their second playoff appearance.
Ladd wasn’t able to come to an agreement on a contract extension with Jets, so they had no choice but trade him to Chicago in February of 2016. In his first game back in Winnipeg as an opposing player, Ladd was given a standing ovation by the MTS Centre crowd. Ladd was almost at loss for words by the amount of respect the Jets fan gave him. He stated he couldn’t say enough good things about the city.
Since leaving the Jets, Ladd has struggled mightily production wise. It’s safe to say if he could go back in time he would have never left Winnipeg.
12. Hated: Jimmy Mann
The first version of the Winnipeg Jets from 1972-96, did not have the best track record when it came drafting players in the first round. While they drafted superstar players like Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne, they have also drafted busts like Ryan Stewart and Sergei Bautin. However, arguably the biggest bust they ever drafted was Jimmy Mann, who they drafted with their very first NHL Draft pick in 1979.
While Mann proved he could score in the junior, he was nothing more than a goon during his time as a Winnipeg Jet. While he was consistently near the top of the league in penalty minutes, he never scored more than three goals in a season. Mann’s time in Winnipeg was also marred with some legal problems. In 1982, Mann sucker-punched Pittsburgh’s Penguin Paul Gardner which broke Gardiner’s jaw. Mann would be charged with assault, but he luckily only ended up paying a $500 fine. The sucker-punch was a gutless move that didn’t nothing to help his reputation with the Jets fans. By 1984 Mann’s time as a Jet was already over, and his NHL career was done shortly after.
11. Loved: Dale Hawerchuk
While playing hockey in his younger years, Dale Hawerchuk was always being compared to Wayne Gretzky. While he never ended being as good as “The Great One” (who was?), he was arguably the greatest Winnipeg Jet ever. Hawerchuk was the first player taken in 1981 NHL Entry Draft, and made an immediate impact in his rookie season by leading the Jets with 103 points. At the time he was the youngest player to ever reach the 100-point plateau. He would play a total of nine seasons in Winnipeg where he led the team in points every season. He had six seasons where he scored more than 100 points, including a career-high 130 points during the 1984-85 campaign.
In 1990, Hawerchuk’s time as a Jet was finished as he was shipped off to the Buffalo Sabres. Although Hawerchuk no longer lives in Winnipeg, he still visits the city often. He recently had the honor of being captain of the Winnipeg Jets Alumni team at the 2016 Heritage Classic.
10. Hated: Kris Draper
When you think of Kris Draper, you think of the Detroit Red Wings. This is because he spent an incredible 17 seasons with the Red Wings organization. However, Draper actually started out his NHL career as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. After being taken in the third round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Draper would spend parts of three seasons with the Jets. He did get into a handful of games of with Winnipeg, but he spent the majority of his time in the minors.
The Jets were losing patience with Draper’s development so they traded him in the Summer of 1993 for one dollar. You heard that right, the Jets only wanted one dollar in return for a player who would turn out to be a legend in Detroit. While Draper is too nice of a person to have publicly said anything bad about his time with the Jets, being traded for a dollar must have been a slap in the face. In the end, it was Draper and the Red Wings who got the last laugh.
9. Loved: Ulf Nilsson
Ulf Nilsson was one of the first Swedish players to come over to North America when he joined the WHA and the Winnipeg Jets in 1974. Nilsson joined his fellow countryman Anders Hedberg, along the legendary Bobby Hull to form the infamous ‘Hot Line.’ The trio would dominate the WHA for four seasons. In 300 games with the Jets, Nilsson recorded an impressive 484 points.
Nilsson followed his team Jets teammate Anders Hedberg to the NHL in 1978. He played four seasons with the New York Rangers but his production was halted due to various injuries. Nilsson cherishes his time he spent with Winnipeg, not only because they were the most successful years of his career, but it was also the birthplace of his son and daughter.
8. Hated: Johnny Oduya
Every NHL team seems to have at least one player that their own fans love to hate. In the 2011-12 season, Winnipeg Jets fans loved to make Johhny Oduya their whipping boy. Oduya’s run in Winnipeg got off to a horrible start to say the least. In the very first game of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0, Oduya had a terrible giveaway that led to the team’s first ever goal against since the NHL came back to the city. While it may have just been one bad giveaway by Oduya, the fans never let him forget it.
Things just weren’t working out in Winnipeg for Oduya, so he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2012 NHL trade deadline. Since leaving the Jets, Oduya has resurrected his career. While he wasn’t a great fit in Winnipeg, he was in Chicago as he helped the team capture two Stanley Cups.
7. Loved: Bob Essensa
Bob Essensa played 446 NHL games during his career. He played 282 of those games as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. He was originally drafted by the Jets in 1983, and after a four-year college career he made his debut with the Jets in 1988-89. In just his second season in the league, Essensa took over starting goaltender role for the Jets. The 1991-92 season was his best as a Jet when posted a league-high five shutouts and was a finalist for the Vezina.
After posting a career high 33 wins in 1992-93, Essensa was traded to the Red Wings in 1994. He went onto to play in the NHL until 2002 but he was never given a starting role after his time with the Jets. Essensa loved his time in Winnipeg as he enjoyed the small town atmosphere and it was after all the team that gave him his big break.
6. Hated: Paul Ysebaert
Paul Ysebaert was originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils, but wasn’t until he joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1990 that his NHL career started to take off. Ysebaert played three seasons with the Red Wings where he put up a solid 170 points in 210 games. His best season came in 1991-92 when he finished third on the Red Wings with 75 points.
Despite his success in Detroit, the Red Wings traded him to Winnipeg for then highly touted prospect Aaron Ward. The Jets were hoping Ysebaert would be part of their long-term future. However, Ysebaert didn’t even last a single season with the team. In 60 games with Winnipeg, he only managed to record 27 points. He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of the 1993-94 season. Although he continued to play in the NHL until 1999, all the momentum Ysebaert had going for him in Detroit was put to an end once he arrived in Winnipeg.
5. Loved: Anders Hedberg
Anders Hedberg (#15) played four seasons for the Jets, all while the team was still a member of the World Hockey Association. After being a star in his home country of Sweden, Hedberg made the trip over to North America in 1974. He took no time acclimating his game to the North American style, putting up 100 points in his first season with the Jets. It didn’t hurt that he played on the line with the likes of Ulf Nilsson, and Bobby Hull. Hedberg, and his linemates would continue to be a dominant force in the WHA for the next four seasons.
Hedberg left the Jets after the 1977-78 season in order to join the NHL and become a member of the New York Rangers. Although he would be a productive player in the NHL, he wouldn’t be able to match the same success as he had with the Jets. Hedberg is forever grateful for his four years in Winnipeg because it afforded him other great experiences in the world of hockey.
4. Hated: Keith Tkachuk
Keith Tkachuk was taken with 19th overall selection in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. The Jets had high expectations for the power forward from Melrose, Massachusetts, and Tkachuk blew away those expectations in his four-plus seasons with Jets. After a solid 51 point rookie season in 1992-93, he improved his point total to 81 the following season. It was also in the 1993-94 season the Jets named Tkachuk team captain.
Things seemed to be going well for Tkachuk and the Jets, that was until the 1995 offseason. Tkachuk was a restricted free agent and the Chicago Blackhawks signed him to a lucrative offer sheet. The Jets were one of the poorest teams in the league, and by that point, they knew the 1995-96 season would be their last. However, the future team owners in Phoenix did want to see Tkachuk go, so they gave Winnipeg the go ahead to match Chicago’s offer.
Tkachuk’s relationship with the Jets and the city of Winnipeg became strained after that. Prior to the 1995-96 season, Tkachuk was stripped of his captaincy, which he felt was uncalled for. The Jets fans would boo him every time he touched the puck during his last season with the Jets. Tkachuk hated playing in Winnipeg because he was always under a microscope, even when he was away from the rink. When the team finally made the move to Phoenix, Tkachuk couldn’t have been happier to have left Winnipeg for good.
3. Loved: Thomas Steen
Thomas Steen played 14 seasons in the NHL, all with the Winnipeg Jets. He made his debut with the Jets during the 1981-82 season, and proved to be a great all-around NHL player. Steen’s best NHL season came in 1988-89 when he recorded a career-high 88 points. Besides being a very productive player during his career, Steen was also a great leader, as served as captain for the Jets during the 1990-91 season.
Steen left the NHL in 1995 to go back and play in his home country of Sweden. At the time, he was the Jet’s all-time leader in seasons (14), games (950), and assists (553). In 1995, his number was just the second to be retired in franchise history.
Although Winnipeg is a long ways away from his birthplace of Tockmark, Sweden, Steen has made Winnipeg his home. He is very involved in the Winnipeg community and has also been involved in theWinnipeg political scene.
2. Hated: Evander Kane
If there is one thing for certain, Evander Kane’s time with the Winnipeg Jets was always entertaining. The problem was that the entertainment he provided was mostly from his off-ice antics. When the Jets came from Atlanta, Evander Kane was arguably the most highly touted prospect on the team. He was coming off a 43 point season with the Atlanta Thrashers as a teenager. In first season with the Jets, Kane continued to develop, leading the team with a more than respectable 30 goals.
After his first year in Winnipeg, it all went downhill for Kane. He battled injury, and when he was in the lineup he battled inconsistency. Even worse than his on ice play, was his off ice activities. It seems like there was always rumors about him being up to no good. While not all the rumors may have been true, where there is smoke there is usually fire.
Kane’s temultous tenure with Jets ended when he was traded to Buffalo in February of 2015. Once the dust was settled after the trade, it was revealed that Evander Kane had requested to be traded from the Jets every single off-season. That’s all the proof you need to see that Kane hated being a Jet, and he couldn’t leave the city fast enough.
1. Loved: Teemu Selanne
Teemu Selanne may have only been a member of the Winnipeg Jets for parts of four seasons, but by the way he is still treated by Jets fan, you would think he played in Winnipeg for twenty years. Selanne’s rise to fame in Winnipeg all started with his magically rookie season in 1992-93. During that season he set NHL rookie records with 76 goals and 132 points. Those numbers most likely will never be broken.
Although Selanne wasn’t able keep up the rapid scoring pace he had during his rookie year, he was still a point per game player for the rest of his time with the Jets. However, injuries, plus a lock shortened season limited the amount games he played in a Jets uniform.
Selanne’s tenure in Winnipeg ended when he was traded to Anaheim in 1996. Selanne will always cherish his time in Winnipeg as the fans always made it feel like home to him.
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