Ah, Jetsmas. I remember the day perfectly. It was a day where we were supposed to work in the computer lab, but the press conference announcing the return was supposed to start around the same time as our class. My teacher had us wait to listen to the press conference on CJOB; that ended up taking too long. We ended up in the computer lab with every student interesting finding a stream to watch the announcement. Some streams were choppy, but we all got one that (somewhat) worked in the end.
Kids were missing from classes later in the day. End of the year in grade 12 means that if there is a party for the Jets at the Forks you ditch class and go (unless you're me, then you stay in class). The joy of that day was palatable. Teachers wearing old Jets jerseys from years gone by; kids acting excited about the return of the team that they couldn't remember. It was the talk of the school.
A lot has changed since then. We have been reminded that the Atlanta Thrashers were not a good team and that AHL goaltending is not so great in the NHL. We also have learned that hiring a GM from a successful organization does not mean that said GM has magic beans that mean automatic success when they leave to go to a new organization (more on this later this summer when I compare Cheveldayoff to Bergevin). Loyalty is good and all, but qualifications matter as well and maybe having someone with NHL experience outside of being a laundry boy is a good thing (maybe, I cannot guarantee that this would help).
The sweaters have changed from the logo of my childhood (well, the logo that I saw in stores but never on the ice) and there has been a distinct military vibe from the team in the era of Jets 2.0. I prefer to call them the Atlanta Thrashers of Winnipeg, but I am kind of weird. The name reveal was anti-climatic and the jersey reveal was too late for Mark Scheifele to have a proper draft jersey (sorry Scheifs). Actually, that may be my favourite snafu, not having a jersey revealed before the draft, leaving Scheifele with an ugly black, standard issue NHL jersey.
There was the jersey reveal where everything seemed awkward (I don't think that walking out of a Hercules to reveal a jersey can be considered not awkward). There was the hiring of Claude Noel because you have to keep your friends closer than your enemies. There were the hometown signings of bad NHLers because Winnipeg! And were (and still are) the fans.
The fans. The best part of the Jets franchise methinks. The part that knows that Pavelec isn't a number 1 goalie in the NHL. The part that met season ticket quotas in a matter of minutes. The part that had some people thinking that the Atlanta Thrashers of Winnipeg could win 15 more games a year because they actually had fans (I know there are some great Thrashers fans, I just have to give you the facts of terrible reporting). These are the people that yell "true north" out of love for the company that brought the Jets back. These are the people who (awesomely) chanted "silver medal" at Ryan Miller and "Crosby's better" at Alex Ovechkin.
On May 31st, 2011 the Winnipeg Jets officially returned to Winnipeg. I'm not sure they ever really left though. They always had fans here; a cult following of people who couldn't say goodbye to their team. The city had changed since the Jets left. Manitoba had too. But where else would there be an election promise to bring the Jets back? Where else would people be talking about the glory days of Teemu Selanne or the signing of Bobby Hull on the corner of Portage and Main?
Winnipeg remained a city without the Jets. Actually, we even had hockey without the Jets. We had a hockey team that featured Wade Flahertty, Mike Keane and Jason Jaffray. We had NHL prospects pass through here (hi Alex Edler, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa etc). There was even a former Jet who coached here and is currently doing a great job coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs (hey, I'm a Habs fan). Two more coaches became NHL coaches besides Randy Carlyle with both Alain Vigneault (Rangers/was the Habs coach before he coached the Moose) and Scott Arniel (Columbus Blue Jackets/assistant coach with Vigneault).
On May 31, the Jets came back in living colour; finally moving beyond the spirit that had sustained them for 15 years...and I spent the day in school.