ST. PAUL – Old is new again in Winnipeg
Co-owner Mark Chipman made it official Friday night, just before GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made the team's first pick, No. 7, at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft: The franchise nickname will be the Jets. The crowd at a team-sponsored Draft party at MTS Centre erupted when Chipman made the choice public by calling his team "the Winnipeg Jets" while introducing Cheveldayoff.
It's the same nickname the city's previous NHL team used during its time in the city. That team left in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
Evander Kane, one of the team's young stars, checked in on the choice on his Twitter page: "It's as official as a referee with a whistle. Officially a JET. #jetsflytogether"
"We are thrilled to be using a name that has so much history in our city and means so much to our fans," said Chipman. "Our fans clearly indicated to us the passion they hold for the name since we acquired the franchise."
After the announcement of the Jets nickname, Cheveldayoff got down to hockey business by picking Mark Scheifele of the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts with the No. 7 pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. Scheifele was a bit of surprise that high, but Jets management was clearly impressed by Scheifele's rookie OHL season, which featured 75 points (22 goals, 53 assists). He also tallied a team-leading six goals in seven games representing Canada in the Under-18 World Championships.
Before stepping to the podium, Chipman admitted to nerves.
"I was just trying to keep my knees from going out from underneath me," he said. "Knowing how important the name is to so many people is humbling, I've got to tell you. It's really humbling to be able to utter those words.
"That's how we got into this business in the first place, to keep the Jets in Winnipeg. We thought about lots of ways to doing this but we just kept coming back to Jets. It became clear to me that it was absolutely the right thing to do."
According to Chipman, Winnipeg fans should expect a different look from that worn by the Jets in 1996. Chipman also indicated the logo and color scheme will differ in some ways to the palette of the former Jets.
"We've begun to do that work, it will be a very different look than what we had when the team left back in 1996," said Chipman. "It won't be (ready) for some time here. We would have loved to have a prototype out there (Friday) but there's some concern it would be knocked off quickly and sold in an inappropriate way."
In reaching the decision to adopt the Jets moniker, Chipman, a native Winnipegger, sought the advice of friends, colleagues and others. The preference for the Jets name remained strong. Prospects that interviewed with the club frequently inquired about the name as well, and the name debate became a subject of intense civic debate.
"We just wanted to be as absolutely certain and thoughtful as we could about it. We listened to a lot of people. We listened to the fans, that was obvious. I was overwhelmed by the unsolicited suggestions that were good and thought we should go in a different direction.
As for the Winnipeg-or-Manitoba subplot in the debate, Chipman also wrestled with that question.
"We considered a lot of names (including Manitoba Jets), and we felt strongly about Manitoba. We've carried that name the past 15 years and we're very proud of the success we've had with the Moose."
"But in the end, Winnipeg Jets has got so much equity in it, well-deserved equity, and it seemed right to take it forward, not mess around with it and take it forward in its original form."