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: Tie Domi → Toronto Maple Leafs
IN: Mike Eastwood + 1995 3rd round pick – Brad Isbister → Winnipeg Jets
Modern hockey fans often find it difficult to wrap their heads around the notion of valuing excessive penalty minutes but, throughout the 90s, this is what team’s wanted and the Jets had him. Tie Domi would go on to be one of the toughest enforcers in hockey history and for three years he perfected that craft in the ‘Peg. In Domi’s three seasons he had a league-leading total of 724 penalty minutes, 15 goals and, most memorably, delivered the assist to Teemu Selanne as he set the rookie single-season scoring record. As soon as Domi joined the team they went on a 12-game winning streak and – for Jets fans that had endured years of losing – they loved what he brought to the ice every single night. Domi was such a fan-favourite that it wasn’t Selanne on the cover of the game 1 program following his record-setting season – it was Tie Domi.
Winnipeg embraces the cold, never complains and loves hard-fought hockey. Tie Domi exemplified these ideals every time he stepped on the ice, which is why losing him altered the Jets’ DNA. While Domi admitted to asking for the trade, it does not negate the impact of his loss. The Jets let the toughest enforcer go to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Mike Eastwood and Brad Isbister who combined would only gain two more goals than Domi and 700 less penalty minutes. The Maple Leafs reaped the benefits of adding an enforcer to protect their stars for the next decade while the Jets saw a piece of their identity leave town. Domi had Pizza Hut ads, car commercials and chants for “Tie and Teemu,” which were commonplace in the Winnipeg Arena. Enforcers are often referred to as glue guys, so when the Jets lost a top-3 all-time enforcer, they fell apart. While, the modern NHL has shifted its dependence away from enforcers, there is not a Stanley Cup Champion team that hasn’t had one or two glue guys, explaining why this trade severely affected the Jets’ DNA moving forward.