x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jets flew up, then away

My team For decades Winnipeg's premier sports franchise was an American football team that battled it out with the likes of Regina and Hamilton.

Bobby Hull was also known as the 'Golden Jet'.
Bobby Hull was also known as the 'Golden Jet'.

For decades Winnipeg's premier sports franchise was an American football team that battled it out with the likes of Regina and Hamilton. Then, in 1972, the Jets were born as part of the World Hockey Association - an upstart rival to the National Hockey League. My home suddenly was testing its mettle against serious cities, sitcom-eligible cities, cities with cachet, American cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia. LA! Our name now appeared in the sports sections of their major metropolitan dailies. Their better-looking television anchors would speak reverently of us when we triumphed. Their fans would discuss us in fancy restaurants, the kind that did not serve hot dogs. We were part of the world now. We were on the map. Then, before their first season, the Jets stole the great winger Bobby Hull (think Wayne Rooney on skates) from Chicago of the NHL. In a ceremony at the corner of Portage and Main, the Jets' owner Ben Hatskin handed Hull a giant cheque for one million dollars! Oh, to be alive and young in Winnipeg. My dad took me to Hull's first home game. I think it was against the Los Angeles Sharks. I remember the savage pent-up roar of the crowd when Hull took the ice. It was gladiatoral and we were the conquerors. We were alive. In 1979 Winnipeg ascended to the NHL. Dark years followed. On the largest stage we were exposed as mere props. We had not the money of the big teams nor the management of the smart ones. Finally, in 1996, the Jets left town for the tantalising lights of Phoenix, an Arizona city with wealth and six hockey fans. Nowadays the Manitoba Moose are Winnipeg's biggest thing on ice. They play in a league one big step down from the NHL. Their current season started with a loss to Hamilton.