x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Local support still gives NHL's new Jets plenty of fuel

The city of Winnipeg is still in the honeymoon phase with their new Jets, who look like a sure pick to end up with a lottery draft slot and not in the play-offs.

The Jets are back and flying high.

Winnipeg, itching for an NHL franchise since the last incarnation of the Jets took off to Phoenix in 1996, was ecstatic when the news broke last June that the Atlanta Thrashers would be relocated to the Manitoba capital.

They are still in the honeymoon phase, but early returns are encouraging that the NHL will work in Winnipeg this time around.

The group that owns the team appears stable, responsible and sensitive to local concerns.

They named the team the Jets, a nod to the city's past and an acknowledgement of the fans' desire ("Bring back the Jets!").

Season tickets sold out in minutes - and not just for this season, but for the next three years. The luxury boxes are sold out and there is corporate support.

The Canadian dollar is at par with the US greenback, unlike 15 years ago when it hovered around 60 cents and caused financial chaos for teams located in Canada.

After it was announced the NHL was returning, you could not turn a corner in Winnipeg without running into someone in a Jets jersey - some with the old logo, some with the new.

The challenge in Winnipeg might be the test of patience. The Jets look more likely to end up with a lottery draft pick this season than a play-off berth. That is fine for a year or two, but they will need to move from pretender to contender before the local goodwill goes the way of the Thrashers.

Which is to say, disappears.