The NHL by any name may smell sweet to rabid Winnipeg hockey fans but they still want their Jets back.
Still it’s far from certain what the team will be called.
The Jets jerseys as common as blue jeans on downtown streets Tuesday were testimony to the brand power the Jets name still has in the city. The long-awaited announcement the NHL was returning was not exactly a well-kept secret and thousands came out to celebrate.
They’re not going to be too picky, said Claudia Byczek, sporting one of the white and blue jerseys with the old Jets logo on the front, but she’s still hoping to see the name return.
“But . . . all the people, Mr. Chipman and everyone who worked so hard, whatever they decide, we’ll all be on board,” she said at the Forks, where thousands gathered to party as the announcement from True North Sports and Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman was shown on a giant screen.
The Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996.
But in the end, despite a lot of speculation to the contrary, it was the Atlanta Thrashers and not the Phoenix Coyotes that were bought by True North. So it isn’t exactly the return of the Jets, although that’s still how almost everyone in the city refers to the return of the NHL.
The league owns the rights to the Jets name and Winnipeg can have it if they want it, said commissioner Gary Bettman.
Bettman says the new owners will decide whether they want to revive the Jets or look to a new era when it comes to the name. A decision will also need to be made about whether the team is known by Winnipeg or Manitoba.
True North doesn’t expect to waste a lot of time before choosing, said Jim Ludlow, president and CEO.
“It’s something that has to be done in very short order,” he said. “I would expect that will be done before the board of governors meeting in June.”
He also said the NHL will be involved since it isn’t just a matter of picking a new name but picking colours and logos and testing them to see how they play on TV screens.
The league also owns the rights to the former Quebec Nordiques name—if and when Quebec achieves its goal of bringing back NHL hockey.