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It’s now ‘Winnerpeg’ with NHL’s Jets

Bruce Penton looks at the Winnipeg Jets
bruce penton sports

Hopes are higher than the Golden Boy this year for Winnipeg Jets to have playoff success in the National Hockey League. Does anyone close to the franchise, or any of their fans, wary of a jinx, dare to whisper the words ‘Stanley Cup’?

When the 2023-24 NHL season went past the halfway point, the Jets — perhaps the most vanilla of the league’s Canadian teams, considering the Centre of the Universe Leafs, the historical brilliance of the Canadiens, the Gretzky/McDavid Oilers, etc. — had established themselves as among the best of the league’s 32 teams, dancing around with Boston and Vancouver for the statistical No. 1 spot. For Winnipeg, it’s a David beating Goliath story, a janitor from Des Moines outsmarting Warren Buffett on the stock market, Taylor Swift starting a tour in Swift Current.

The Jets have always been underdogs. Born when the outlaw World Hockey Association formed in 1972, the Jets were one of the four teams adopted by the NHL in 1979, mainly due to their powerful team led by Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson et al. But the franchise fell upon sad times almost immediately, winning only two playoff rounds through 1996 when poor attendance and rising costs led to the team moving to Arizona. But in the summer of 2011, the Jets were reborn when the Atlanta Thrashers went looking for a new home.

Still, success did not follow the team’s move north. The team did win two rounds in 2017-18, losing in the Western Conference final to Vegas, but in general, there has been no need for the Jets to have a champagne supplier on retainer.

That was then. This is now. Superb defensive play has been the key to the Jets’ recent domination. On Jan. 20, they were in the midst of an incredible 34 consecutive games without giving up more than three goals, dating back to Nov. 2 (a 5-2 loss to Vegas). Goalie Connor Hellebuyck is a Vezina trophy favourite, veteran Mark Scheifele agreed to a long-term contract in October and a couple of malcontents, Pierre-Luc Dubois and former captain Blake Wheeler, were dispatched — Dubois via trade to L.A. that returned two dependable players (Gabriel Valardi and Alex Iafallo) and buying out Wheeler’s contract.

But there’s more. Josh Morrissey is in the running for the Norris Trophy as best defenceman, Cole Perfetti is emerging as a star and Nik Ehlers has been red-hot offensively while sniper Kyle Connor, now back in the lineup, was sidelined with an injury. 

“It’s been our 5-on-5 team game, everyone has bought in,” Jets coach Rick Bowness told

It’s long been accepted that the Jets would have difficulty succeeding because free agents would avoid Winnipeg like the plague. Cold weather, smallish population, perennial losers. But that was the ‘Winterpeg’ version. It’s now ‘Winnerpeg’ and Jets fans can’t wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds. Perhaps the Golden Boy won’t be the only shiny bauble in Winnipeg come June.

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Did you see where Tiger Woods and Nike have split up? I’m just wondering if Nike found out Tiger was cheating on them with FootJoy.”
  • Torben Rolfsen of Vancouver: “Tiger Woods has ended his association with Nike after 27 years. He will now be exclusively with Perkins.”
  • Patriots owner Robert Kraft was reportedly annoyed at coach Bill Belichick after Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl in his first year: “Bill had told me he couldn’t play anymore.”
  • Janice Hough of “Miami TE Cam McCormick, due to various injuries, COVID, and transferring, was just granted his ninth year of eligibility for college football. Maybe it will improve Cam's draft stock. How many rookies reduce their team's costs by being eligible for Medicare?”
  • weighed in on the same subject: “Cam McCormick will return next fall to play college football. This is a repeat from every year since Obama’s last year in office.”
  • Super 70s Sports: “I wonder how Bill Belichick feels after six Super Bowl wins to know he’s battling Jim Harbaugh just for the honour of coaching in Atlanta.”
  • Jack Finarelli at his website, sports “Deion Sanders has gone silent for a couple of weeks.  When next he surfaces, he will need to make up for his public absence by saying something abjectly outrageous.”
  • Finarelli offering up a trivia tidbit:”These are the first NFL playoffs since 1998 where there is no one named Manning or Brady as a QB on any roster.”
  • RJ Currie of “Two sure signs the NFL playoffs have started: 2) A snowstorm forced the Bills to push back their game one day; 1) The Dallas Cowboys got the jump on another early playoff collapse.”
  • Another one from Currie: “At the Aussie Open, American Coco Gauff will open the tournament in a one-sided affair. She's up against Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, whom she trails 23 characters to nine.”                                    

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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