Impact – ”Having a strong effect on someone or something.”
The Winnipeg Jets have a history like no other. They were dominant in the WHA, struggled to make the jump to the NHL and as soon as they began to pick up steam – POOF! they were gone. As fans, we are only privy to certain aspects of team chemistry. We may occasionally hear rumours about players’ behaviours in locker rooms, hotels, team busses and on the bench, but, for the most part, fans are silent observers. 2020 has forced us all into a state of reflection, remembering how things were and how they got to where they are now. That’s why it felt important to look at which players impacted the Jets franchise, for the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Bad- Jimmy Mann
The ‘first-round bust’ label is inevitable in sports because, frankly, there are certain players that should never have been selected so high. Thus, having unrealistic expectations placed on them, their failure becomes unavoidable. Unfortunately for Jimmy Mann, he’s one of the players that holds the dubious ‘first-round bust’ title for the Winnipeg Jets. The rugged winger from the Sherbrooke Castors was coming off back-to-back 80 point seasons in the QMJHL before he was selected 19th overall in the 1979 NHL draft. John Ferguson Sr. is said to have liked Mann’s playing style because it reminded him of himself, which – in hindsight – probably isn’t the best way to choose your team’s first pick. The impact of Mann may have been different had he been drafted in the later rounds because the pressure of being a franchise’s 1st ever NHL pick wouldn’t have been there for Mann. But he was, which means his impact in Winnipeg is marked by a black-bust stain.
The Montreal native spent more time in the penalty box than anyone in his rookie season…287 minutes to be exact. Mann could never find the scoring touch in the NHL and tallied only 9 goals in his 5 seasons in Winnipeg. The frustration of being a shark in Juniors and becoming a minnow in the NHL boiled over in 1982. Mann watched Paul Gardner cross-check his teammate Doug Smail in the face and absolutely lost it. Before the ensuing faceoff, Mann came up behind Gardner and sucker punched him, breaking his jaw and forcing Gardner to miss 20 games. Even though the NHL sent a message to the enforcer by handing down a 10-game suspension, the Manitoba courts felt the need to intervene to curb his egregious behaviour. The former first-rounder was forced to appear in a Manitoba court on charges of assault. Mann and his legal team were under the impression he would receive a conditional charge to avoid a criminal record, but the Judge thought differently. The Judge felt that a conditional charge would be condoning Mann’s behaviour and felt it necessary to issue him $500 fine and a criminal record.
Unfortunately, that one night in 1982 cemented Mann’s impact on the Winnipeg Jets. The franchise could have avoided this stain by drafting Michel Goulet or Kevin Lowe, both of whom were drafted after Mann in the 1979 entry draft. Mann was traded back to his home province to play for the Quebec Nordiques where he spent three seasons and delivered the same offensive output as he did in Winnipeg, scoring only 1 goal. The impact of a player is often dictated by their play on-the-ice but, unfortunately for Mann, it was a play on-the-ice, which spilt into the courtroom that forever tarnished his impact on the Winnipeg Jets.