Just over 16 years ago, on a Tuesday night, the Bruins last hosted an NHL franchise hailing from the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba. Courtesy of a hat trick by Jozef Stumpel (sorry, Patty!) the B's would go on to defeat the original (at least the NHL version) of the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 5-4 in the first season at the brand new FleetCenter. The Bruins also got goals from Ray Bourque and Chelmsford homie Steve Leach while Medford native Keith Tkachuk (2 goals), Teemu Selanne and Current Blackhawks/Versus/NBC commentator Eddie Olczyk scored for the Jets. The immortal Scott Bales manned the crease for the Bruins while current Edmonton Oiler Nicolai Khabibulin tended the Winnipeg net. Also playing for the Jets in that game was one Shane Doan, currently the only player still with the franchise including their relocation to the Arizona desert in the 1996-7 season.
The Bruins would take a 5-3 decision in Winnipeg on the last day of 1995 with Cam Neely and Ted Donato chipping in with 2 goals a piece against onetime Bruins netminder Tim Cheveldae as Craig Billington got the win.
And that was the end of NHL hockey in Winnipeg.
The demise of the Atlanta Thrashers led to the relocation of the team to the middle of Canada and the rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets name. Though the new team is a completely separate entity from the team currently toiling in obscurity in Glendale (the Coyotes are the official inheritors of the original Jets history, including retired numbers), the fanbase has taken to the new version with a fervor that few other markets can match. They play in the MTS Centre, the smallest arena in the league, but tickets are pretty much sold out for the entire season and the few that are available can be had for a hefty sum. The team is not all that great, having been picked by the pundits to finish somewhere near the bottom of the standings, but they had been somewhat hot of late, with a 4-0-1 record coming into the game.
Which brings us to this past Saturday night. A long holiday weekend tilt, the second half of a back to back homestand against the reborn Jets. Let's see how it played out.
Just the facts, Jack (Edwards)
- Boston Bruins (13-7-1) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9-9-4)
- Bruins riding an 11 game point streak, having lost in a shootout a day earlier to the Detroit Red Wings, halting their 10 game winning streak
- First game against the Jets since they relocated from Atlanta
John Blue Plate Special
I had flown back from Baltimore earlier in the day, having spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family at my wife's in-laws. I had missed attending the Detroit game, but thankfully I was able to watch it on the national NBC broadcast (which was great, I may add).
Having got home fairly early, we were able to get home and unpack and get some stuff done around the house. But because we had to get up at 6:00 am, we were all somewhat exhausted. My wife and son fell asleep and I relaxed with some NHL network. Around 3:30, I headed out into town for the game. A quick jump on the orange line and I was at the Fours, meeting up with Heather.
The downstairs was pretty much full, as I had expected given the slate of college football games on the schedule. So we headed upstairs and were able to land a couple of seats at the bar fairly easily. Perhaps it was residual tryptophan in people's blood streams or the fact that many season ticket holders gave up their seats for the night, but the pregame crowd was lame. No energy whatsoever. Saturday night games are special and ever-increasingly rare and here was a game against a Canadian opponent still with some of that new car smell and people could have seemed less excited. Add to that the fact that Heather was feeling a bit under the weather and the whole scene left something to be desired.
With my partner in crime not having much of an appetite, I had carte blanche to order whatever I wanted off the menu. I went with the Bobby Orr, teriyaki style with cheese, peppers and onions. I dare you to find a better pregame meal in the city. Good luck, because you won't.
Nostalgia is big these days. Reebok, through their purchase of CCM/Koho, has been able to capitalize on this wave by reissuing some of the sweaters worn by many of the defunct and relocated NHL franchises including such teams as the Hartford Whalers, Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiquies and, of course, the original Winnipeg Jets.
I fully expected to see one or two Teemu Selanne and Keith Tkachuk replicas and sure enough, when I walked into the Fours, I was greeted by a blue #13. But I wanted more. And thanks to a conversation with fellow 307 resident Cornelius Hardenbergh, the bar was set: Dale Hawerchuk.
Did I find my white whale?
You'd better believe it!
Circa 1982 Dale Hawerchuk Winnipeg Jets away replica
A close cousin to the disco era New York Rangers uniforms of the late 70s, the Jets wore this design from their inception to 1990. Not the greatest look in my book, but simple and effective.
What else did I find?
I almost felt bad for these guys. Here they were to support the team they had (seemingly) rooted for only to have the franchise move to greener pastures north of the border. But for whatever sense of sympathy I might have had for them, it was undone by the fact that they chose to purchase these sweaters. First introduced in 2003 as an alternate, this design became the home sweater in 2006 and survived the Reebok edge revamp the following season. I don't mind the color of the body; In fact, I kind of like it. But the asymmetrical sleeve treatment along with the "Atlanta" down the left side just plain sucks. The hemline striping and the crest are great, but this just screams "small market shenanigans".
Benoit Pouliot Sudbury Wolves home replica
Before Benny was on his way to being a first round bust in Minnesota and Montreal, he was skating for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. Coming off a monster season in junior (he went 29-38-67 with 102 PIMs in 67 games), he was drafted #4 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
The Row 11 Rundown
Being a Saturday night, Bill and Carol weren't in attendance, but we had John Barry man seat 11 and Chris was the designated Kasper representative. Charla and the kids weren't there either. And Heather had to make an early exit as she wasn't in the best of shape due to illness.
Doosh of the Day
After a brief hiatus, we are back with DoTD. And this time the award goes to the bitchy girls in row 10 (big surprise) who showed up 5 minutes into the game and decided to enter the section while play was going on in our end of the rink, clearly not paying any attention to the signs imploring ticket holders to wait for the whistle. Granted, the lack of an usher working at the entrance didn't help, but I also didn't need nor appreciate the bitchy retort when I asked them to grab a seat after their prolonged failure to find their actual seats and sit down so we could see the action on the ice.
The Bob Lobel Prize
When the Bruins acquired Rich Peverley from the Thrashers near the trade deadline last year, the gave up forward Blake Wheeler and defensemen Mark Stuart in return. And Saturday night marked their first return to the Garden ice since that transaction.
Wheels had an assist on the first Jets goal, recorded one shot on goal and finished with a -1 rating.
Stu also had one shot on net, but finished a +1 on the night.
In all, neither had a major impact on the game. No real harm done.
The Home End
Perhaps showing the effects of playing a tough game against the Red Wings a day earlier, the Bruins came out of the gate looking a bit sluggish and it showed with Tim Thomas giving up two goals midway through the first. But Zdeno Chara potted a power play strike from the right faceoff circle to cut the deficit in half a few minutes later. Chris Kelly struck for second period two goals, the first a shorthanded effort, to give the Bruins the lead before Brad Marchand sealed the victory with an empty netter at the end of regulation. In doing so, the Bruins were able to extend their point scoring streak to 11, garnering a remarkable 23 out 24 possible points in that span.
Up next: A home and home matchup against Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs.