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Go Jets Go?

The wait is over, the dream has finally come. NHL hockey is back in Winnipeg, everyone rejoice.

But…this new team doesn’t have a name.

The option taken by Winnipeg fans has been to revert to the old name and traditions that many of us have been brought up with; the whiteout, the Queen, “Jump” by Van Halen, the Winnipeg Jets. The overwhelming response among fans has been to call this team the Jets.

Every poll that has been conducted has been at least 60% in favour of Jets. On Tuesday we saw the citizens of Winnipeg take to Portage & Main and to The Forks wearing Jets jerseys, holding Jets flags, chanting “Go Jets Go!” The spontaneous cheers of “Go Jets Go!” went on through to the late hours of the night.
Portage Main1

Support for the Jets name isn’t Winnipeg specific. Even Don Cherry, who has been a supporter of Winnipeg for years opened his interview with True North President Mark Chipman by asking him in a near threatening tone, “are you going to name this team the Jets, or what?”

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The few who are in favour of a new name, have a few common arguments that can be easily debunked:

The Jets weren’t successful. Do you consider the Toronto Maple Leafs successful? The Chicago Cubs? Based on the recency of championships won, you could argue no. I don’t see either franchise’s fans arguing to change their name in an effort to start “new winning traditions”

The new owners want the additional revenue stream of their own brand.  This is false; revenues from apparel & merchandise are split evenly as centrally generated revenue among the 30 teams. The Jets already have an established brand that has been around for over 30 years that is globally known. An important lesson that is taught in business school is: it is easier to take over an existing brand, than to start a new one.

People already have Jets jerseys and won’t buy new ones. The solution to this one is simple: use the same color scheme but modernize the logo and pattern, teams do it all the time. Vancouver has changed their jerseys several times since their Stanley Cup run in 1994, what are the majority of jerseys that you see everyone wearing at the cup final? The new blue ones. I haven’t seen an overwhelming majority of skate logos or the older orcas in the crowd. Fans will want to update to what the players are wearing.

Winnipeg needs a “fresh start” with a new name. I don’t see how this applies. The Jets should have never left, having a team return is the closest thing to Gary Bettman admitting failure. The name has stayed in our hearts and our minds for the last 15 years. Winnipeg has developed a deep emotional connection to the Jets. We didn’t want the “NHL” back, we wanted the “Jets” back.

This isn’t the first time in sports history that a city has had a franchise ripped away from them only for it to return.

In 1995 Art Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland to Baltimore. The fans and the city revolted and struck a deal to keep the Browns’ name, colours, history, records, awards and archives in Cleveland. When Cleveland was awarded an expansion franchise, it remained the Browns. In their history and record books it states that the team was “deactivated” from the years 1996-1999.

When the CFL’s American expansion failed, the Baltimore Stallions moved to Montreal. They were reincarnated as the Alouettes. The CFL now recognizes all clubs that have played in Montreal since 1946 as one franchise, and the Stallions became defunct.

Why not have the Winnipeg Jets records, history, team colours, name and logo leave Phoenix and come back to Winnipeg. I don’t think that the owners of the Coyotes, the NHL would have much of a issue with that. Gary Bettman stated at Tuesday’s press conference that he had no problem giving back the name.

In the end it’s True North who ponied up and spent $170 million to purchase the team, they are free to choose any direction they like. However, it is the fans who will be supporting the team by buying tickets, concessions and merchandise. It is a tough situation to be in right now for True North.

No matter what this new team’s name is, the people of Winnipeg and surrounding areas will make it their own. It will be unfortunate for many of us who still love the Jets if the name will truly be put to rest.

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