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: Ravil Gusmanov → Chicago Blackhawks
IN: 1996 4th round pick – Vladimir Antipov → Winnipeg Jets
On April 26, 1996 the ‘original’ Winnipeg Jets played their last game in Winnipeg Arena. Only one month earlier, General Manager John Paddock made the final trade acquisition for the ‘original’ team when he exchanged Ravil Gusmanov to the Chicago Blackhawks for Vladimir Antipov. There is no point in discussing either player’s goals, assists or penalty minutes, because there weren’t any. Gusmanov played 4 games for the Jets, never recorded a point, ended with a -3 and didn’t play in the NHL again. Similarly, Antipov never played a game for the Jets or in the NHL. So why, you might ask, is this trade so significant? The short answer is because players are vulnerable to father-time and organizations are not. With this, the last trade a team ever makes undoubtedly alters the DNA of the franchise because – at the time – it seems like a finality. An absolute ending. In hindsight, Jets fans may tell you that they expected the team to eventually come back to Winnipeg but nobody thought that at the time… and… how could you? The logo, arena and uniform for the Phoenix Coyotes had already been announced prior to their 4-1 playoff loss to Detroit so this trade was like the calm before the storm. Afterwards, the franchise even metaphorically waved a white flag that – this time – didn’t represent the ‘Whiteout.’ Through this, the franchise’s DNA was drastically altered in 1996 but you better believe it was modified again 15 years later when the Jets came back to town. It was a dark 15 years for Jets’ fans and, while it’s not the same franchise that left in ‘96, no matter what shape or state it’s in, the Jets’ DNA will always be intertwined with Winnipeg’s.