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: Dale Hawerchuk + 1990 1st round pick – Brad May→ Buffalo Sabres
IN: Scott Arniel + Phil Housley + Jeff Parker + 1990 1st round pick – Keith Tkachuk → Winnipeg Jets
It’s 1990 and 10 years before the new millennium and the Winnipeg Jets have to make a crucial decision for their future. With nearly a decade in Winnipeg Arena, the Jets’ captain Dale Hawerchuk was one of their most consistent, popular and longest serving players. In spite of his constant production, first-year head coach Bob Murdoch was consistently cutting his minutes. Tensions ran high all season because Hawerchuk felt he had more to give but Murdoch would not adjust his gameplan. This led to a monumental shift in the Jets’ DNA when Hawerchuk submitted a trade request to General Manager Mike Smith. The shift was two-fold because the Jets traded their most iconic player and he would go on to play 8 more years and rack up two 90-point seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Although fans were upset after the organization essentially sided with a first-year coach rather than their Jet hero, once the new acquisitions hit the ice, boos quickly turned to cheers. Arguably playing the best three seasons of his career in Winnipeg, including a finishing runner-up in Norris trophy voting and passing an ungodly 79 assists, Phil Housley would go on to establish himself in the conversation for top Jets of all-time,
The Sabres got 5 productive years from Hawerchuk but the Jets only got 3 years from Housley. If this was a 1-to-1 trade, the Jets would clearly be on the losing end…but Keith Tkachuk was the wildcard. Arguably one of the best American-born hockey players all-time, Tkachuk was the symbol of a new generation for Jets fans and would Captain the team in his sophomore season. Although lucrative offer-sheet made Tkachuk’s exit less than ceremonious, it was Keith Tkachuk that led the team in a final skate at the Winnipeg Arena in appreciation for the fans.
Trading a legend will always alter a franchise’s DNA, but trading Dale Hawerchuk changed the city of Winnipeg’s DNA. Losing Babych hurt. Domi leaving stung. But, when Hawerchuk left, tears were shed. Cities with one major sport team always love their legends and defend them at any cost,so GM Mike Smith took a lot of flack from Jets’ fans for his decision to trade Hawerchuk. However, getting two role players – a Norris trophy runner-up and strong-power forward who recorded at least 50 points every year – was a pretty good consolation prize. So even though it devastated fans, the DNA of the Jets wasn’t damaged after this trade – it just got a little younger.