The old adage states, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, neither was the ‘Peg. The Winnipeg Jets have been building their empire in the WHA since 1972 and later joined the NHL in 1979. The foundation of the team has always been grounded in their belief in tough hockey, never being afraid to take a risk and, most importantly, there being no better night out than a ‘Whiteout’ night out. We all know that before anything of real value can truly flourish, time must be taken to cultivate it to grow. While the Jets’ exodus from town was certainly a blemish on the empire’s reputation, it should not diminish the moves the team has made to better the franchise and the city as a whole. The Jets didn’t waste any time to start wheelin’ and dealin’ and neither should we. So without further adieu, here are the trades that altered the Jets’ DNA.
OUT: Dave Babych → Hartford Whalers
IN: Ray Neufeld→ Winnipeg Jets
A generational talent who was shipped to Hartford in the middle of his prime, Dave Babych forever altered the Jets’ DNA. Every NHL player knows they can be traded at any moment but both Babych and fans were blindsided by this shocking announcement. To throw salt in the wound, Babych was a huge fan-favorite on and off-the-ice. Teenage boys in Winnipeg spent the 80s trying to grow their own ‘Babych-moustache’ and so, when the news came out that he would be traded for Ray Neufeld, Winnipeg was outraged. The team was put on notice – no player was untradeable. Insider info – Ferguson wasn’t the biggest fan of Babych’s game. Notably, he had been critical of Babych’s toughness and was adamant that changes had to be made to his passive gameplay. There were certainly defensive worries when Babych was on the ice but he wasn’t a stay-at-home defenceman. He wanted to put up points and did exactly that.
Babych played like a forward in the back, constantly taking risks and jumping in the play for odd-man rushes.This included a career-high season in 1982 when he averaged nearly one point-per-game and ended the season with 74 points. Babych would go on to play 15 successful seasons after his stint in Winnipeg where he continued to be a menace in the offensive zone. In the immediate aftermath, Ferguson tried to justify the shocking trade by telling the Winnipeg Free Press – “I have sacrificed one of the better point men in the NHL for Neufeld… Hartford wouldn’t move him at any cost, except for Babych.” The sting of the trade for Jets’ fans would continue when, unable to ever reach the 20-goal mark, Neufeld never produced. The situation was obviously compounded by Babych’s popularity, which has been backed by Neufeld’s reports that he felt ostracized by the team and city and labelled as the “other guy” in what is commonly referred to as the worst trade in Jets’ history. This trade was unpopular, unsuccessful, and altered the Jets’ DNA in a way the franchise hadn’t ever experienced.