Do The Phoenix Coyotes Own Winnipeg’s History?

Winnipeg Jets Numbers Hanging In The Phoenix Coyotes Home Arena?

Does Winnipeg’s History Belong To Winnipeg or Phoenix?  Does the city’s history trump the franchise’s history?

Why can’t Phoenix Coyotes players wear no’s 9, 10 and 25?  I am going to start this story by stating that I am not a fan of retiring sweater numbers in any sport. I do acknowledge the need to honor our sports heroes and I like what many franchises do and that is inducting the player into their “Ring of Honor” or whatever they choose to call it.  This usually happens with a ceremony and the name and number appearing in the team’s arena or stadium.

Jerry Brown wrote an article for “The East Valley Tribune” in Mesa, AZ the summer of 2011 that really stuck with me.  When I go to Phoenix Coyote games, I look at the retired numbers displayed at arena and wonder if the Coyote fans wonder or even care about those 3 retired Winnipeg Jet numbers. Do Arizona hockey fans wonder why their players can’t wear No.’s 9, 10, and 25 since those players actually never played in Phoenix.

I had to laugh when I read this from Jerry Brown’s article and I quote,

“No one with the Phoenix Coyotes can wear No.9 because the sweater was retired in honor of Bobby Hull – who might have picked up a golf club in Arizona when visiting his son Brett, but never a hockey stick”. When the Winnipeg Jets return to the NHL this fall Evander Kane will be wearing the No. 9 in the city the Golden Jet is revered and lead the team to a pair of WHA titles.


Hull, Hawerchuk, and Steen’s numbers honored here, not in Winnipeg

The same would apply to former Jets Dale Hawerchuk (No. 10) and Thomas Steen (No. 25) whose numbers are both retired by the Coyotes even though they never played in Phoenix, yet both numbers are available to players in Winnipeg.  I doubt Phoenix Coyotes hockey fans care about Hull, Hawerchuk or Steen and why would they?  Hockey fans in Phoenix never saw any of them play for their home team.

The Phoenix Coyotes are doing a nice job of celebrating their own history and they recently retired Keith Tkachuk’s No.7 and Jeremy Roenick’s No.97 and they will join former Jets and Coyotes defenceman, Teppo Numminen’s No. 27 in arena.

I attended both of those games and the Phoenix Coyote fans were loud and proud in showing their love for both players.

Bobby Hull and the WHA Winnipeg Jets were a hated rival of the Robbie Ftorek led Phoenix Roadrunners so why would a Phoenix hockey fan want to look at Hull’s No. 9 in their rafters. Robbie Ftorek was the WHA’s MVP in 1977.  Phoenix should be honoring their “WHL and WHA Roadrunners” and their “NHL Coyotes” as part of their hockey history.

Back to the Jets.  The way I see it is the 1st edition of the Winnipeg Jets and their NHL history died that fatal night in Winnipeg, April 28,1996 in their last game against Detroit in the playoffs.  That is where their franchise history ended but not their Winnipeg hockey history.  The Atlanta Thrashers played their last game on April 10, 2011, and as far as I’m concerned so did their history.  It belongs to the City of Atlanta and they can put it on the mantle right beside their Atlanta Flames hockey history.  I don’t care about Kovalchuk’s or Heatley’s accomplishments or franchise records.  They never played here.  If they need to be in the record books, so be it.

NHL Fans Deserve A Better Point System

Winnipeg Fans Awaiting The Official Announcement

The 2nd edition of the NHL Winnipeg Jets was reborn on that unforgettable day of May 31, 2011, and so did their new franchise history and team records.  It just continues adding to Winnipeg’s hockey history.  True North Sports and Entertainment and the MTS  Center should be honoring the WHA Jets along with the 1st edition of the NHL Winnipeg Jets.  We could have past Winnipeg hockey heroes in a ring of honor not forgetting our hockey past while still allowing all the numbers to be available to today’s current players.  Honoring the past was never more evident than when Teemu Selanne returned to Winnipeg last season.  Jet fans had the Anaheim Duck players choked up by their response for Teemu even though he had been gone for 16 years.  Do you think he is revered like that in Phoenix? The whole point is to honor our city’s hockey heritage and the point I’ve been trying to make is hockey fans care about what they actually see, not folklore from generations past, from another city, in another time.

I’ll leave you with this last scenario to make my point and I hope this never, ever happens.  When Winnipeg got NHL hockey back in 2011, it stopped all of the rumors of Phoenix Coyotes coming back to Winnipeg but with the ownership problem still not sorted out it in Phoenix it hasn’t stopped the Phoenix to Seattle or Phoenix to Southern Ontario rumors or even the Phoenix to Quebec City rumors.  This is where it gets comical.  Could you imagine the Phoenix Coyote franchise being relocated to Quebec City?  They already have a long and rich history with the Quebec Aces, along with the WHA and NHL Nordiques?  Do you think they’d be hanging up Hull’s, Hawerchuk’s or Steen’s jerseys?  How about the jerseys of retired Coyotes like Tkachuk, Roenick or Numminen in their arena?  I’m willing to bet that they would rather rot in hell than ever acknowledge their bitter WHA rivalry with Bobby Hull and could really care less about Roenick and Tkachuk! 

The people of Quebec City want to see Beliveau, Lafleur, Tardiff, Cloutier and the Stastny brothers.  That is their city’s hockey history and that’s the way it should be.  So the point of this blog is that a city’s hockey history trumps the team’s franchise history and it’s not even close.

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  1. I agree Mitch, without question, that retired numbers should remain part of the rich hockey history of the city the players were honoured in, and that a new book or chapter begins when a team moves to another location. In Winnipeg’s case, a new chapter becomes part of a work; that book if you will in which the preceding chapter ended when the Jets left Winnipeg. There is no Atlanta chapter in between. There is no footnote referring to a Phoenix franchise. The previously retired numbers should only hang in Winnipeg for the reasons you pointed out.

    While you will have many supporters in opposition of retiring numbers, I’ll respectfully disagree here. Retirements and Hall of Fame inductions are among my favourite events to watch and that for some reason evoke manifold emotions (call me a sentimetalist). They mark the end of a career during which a player’s performance is considered to be among the greats or whose performance and character transcends the game of hockey; during which he led a dressing room of team-mates often capturing the ultimate goal. It represents a sudden shift from his involvement as a player (and us watching him play) to hockey lore. Are there some players who should not be in the Hall or whose numbers should not have been retired? Yes, but it would take centuries for almost all teams to get to triple digits. I’ve been accused of being a bit of a traditionalist and purist when it comes to hockey…sorry.

    Thirty Six Saints

  2. I like the ceremonies also, but putting Morenz’s No.7 in the Ring of Honor doesn’t diminish his accomplishments. I don’t hold the original 6 in the same high regard as others just because that in the 30’s and 40’s there were senior teams better than Boston and NYR.

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