To start off my contributions here at Jets Nation, I just wanted to share just 3 of my favorite memories of watching the Jets as a boy/young adult. I grew up in Winnipeg and stayed until I was 25 years old when the Jets left and broke my man-heart. The old incarnation of the team, called “Jets (1979)” by the NHL, had some interesting, crazy, and wild ups-and-downs in their first go-round! Here’s a few that I recall and hope to hear your best stories as well!
1. Teemu Selanne’s Record-Setting Goal
As a stressed-out university student with little money (aren’t they all?), I was able to use my pennies to grab some very high-up, end-zone seats to see the Jets play the Quebec Nordiques on March 2, 1993. This was just a few days after the Finnish Flash scored an incredible 4 goals versus Minnesota on February 28, so I was ecstatic to be there, but was doubtful I would see the rookie goal-scoring record get broken that night. Luckily, Teemu came through with goals 52 and then 53 (to tie Mike Bossy’s record) to make the crowd go crazy with anticipation! Then, late in the game got #54 and did the best celebration ever by throwing his glove in the air and shooting it down as if wielding a machine gun, a moment I now have immortalized in a souvenir picture obtained at a Flames game this past New Year’s Eve. That celebration was the best ever….so damn cool! On a side note, it’s a rare feat that Teemu’s best season came as a rookie in scoring 77 + 56 = 132 points in an expanded 84-game season that included 2 neutral site games per team.
2. A Big Bounce-Back Game in the Big Bounce-Back Season
Probably not one many of you would have on your list, but it meant something to me as the Jets had suffered through the previous 1980-81 season with only 9 wins (to go with 57 losses and 14 ties) and set the undesirable record of 30 consecutive games without a win. All the Jets fans were so excited to see #1 overall draft pick Dale Hawerchuk on the ice to begin the next season and the Jets were starting out their 1981-82 season very well with a 7 wins, 5 losses, and 2 ties entering their Remembrance Day game at the Met Centre versus the North Stars. The scores of previous games had been quite high in some cases but nothing would compare to the total devastation of the 15-2 loss they suffered that night. I was thinking “oh my God, even with Hawerchuk on the team, we may still suck” and cried myself to sleep (yes….seriously!). However, just a few nights later on November 14, the bounce-back game happened as the Jets fought back in a close contest and scored in the last few seconds to win a 3-2 match over the L.A. Kings at the Forum. "Whew" I thought, "this game counts as much as the other one so I will take it and allow myself to have some hope for this hard-luck team!"
3. Playoff Success – Finally!
As a fan who continued to suffer as the Jets started fielding good teams in the Hawerchuk era only to lose quickly in the playoffs, it was heartening to see the team doing well in their first round 1985 Smythe division semi-final series. Playing versus the Flames, the Jets were doing well and perhaps going to show the league their history against Alberta teams could change come playoff-time. But in game 3, Flames defenseman Jamie Macoun delivered a dirty hit on star Hawerchuk to knock him out for the rest of the playoffs. However, the gutsy Jets responded with a great game the next night on April 14, besting Calgary 5-3 at the Saddledome in front of backup goalie Marc Behrend. Finally, the Jets had won their first playoff series! An amazing feat… but noting that the season ultimately ends again in Edmonton. The Jets eventually finished with a playoff record of 4 wins and 22 losses against the Gretzky-fuelled Oilers…and you thought the current NHL divisions were tough!