As hockey fans, we all have our favorite teams and players that we look up to and admire. Whether it’s a local minor hockey team or a professional NHL franchise, these teams and players hold a special place in our hearts. One such team that has captured the hearts of fans for decades is the Winnipeg Jets.
Formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers, the Winnipeg Jets joined the NHL in 2011 and have since become an integral part of the league. But before their move to Winnipeg, the Jets were a part of the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972 to 1979, and then later joined the NHL in 1979. Although the franchise has gone through many changes, one thing remains constant: the impact of their iconic players on the team’s history.
From the WHA days to their current standing in the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets have seen their fair share of legendary players who have not only left their mark on the team but on the entire league as well. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the franchise legends who have shaped the Winnipeg Jets into the team they are today.
Bobby Hull: The Golden Jet
When you think of the Winnipeg Jets, one of the first names that comes to mind is Bobby Hull. Known as the Golden Jet, Hull was the first superstar player in the WHA and played a vital role in establishing the league’s credibility.
Hull joined the Winnipeg Jets in 1972 and quickly became one of the most dominant players in the league, leading the team to three AVCO Cup championships in the WHA’s seven-year existence. He was known for his powerful slap shot and was the first player to score 50 goals in a professional hockey league in both the NHL and the WHA.
Hull’s impact on the Winnipeg Jets went beyond his on-ice success. He brought a level of excitement and energy to the team that was unparalleled and helped put them on the map as a legitimate hockey franchise.
Dale Hawerchuk: The Franchise Player
In 1981, the Winnipeg Jets drafted a young center from Cornwall, Ontario, who would go on to become the face of their franchise for the next nine years. Dale Hawerchuk, with his exceptional skills and leadership, quickly became the cornerstone of the Jets and a fan favorite.
In his first season with the Jets, Hawerchuk recorded 103 points and was named the rookie of the year. He went on to lead the team in scoring for nine consecutive seasons and became the youngest player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points at the age of 29.
Hawerchuk’s impact on the franchise cannot be overstated. He not only helped the Jets reach the playoffs for the first time in the NHL, but he also brought credibility and respect to the team as a top-tier player in the league.
Teemu Selanne: The Finnish Flash
In 1992, the Winnipeg Jets drafted a young right-winger from Finland who would go on to be one of the most beloved players in franchise history. Teemu Selanne, also known as the Finnish Flash, joined the Jets and made an immediate impact, scoring 76 goals and winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year.
Selanne’s speed, agility, and goal-scoring abilities made him a fan favorite in Winnipeg. He would become the first Winnipeg Jets player to reach 50 goals in a season, and his performance on the ice helped the team make the playoffs in his first two seasons.
Although Selanne was only with the Jets for four seasons before being traded, his impact on the franchise and the city of Winnipeg was significant. He remains a legend in the eyes of fans and is often referred to as the greatest player in franchise history.
Dustin Byfuglien: The Big Buff
In 2010, the Winnipeg Jets drafted a young defenseman from Roseau, Minnesota, who would go on to play a key role in the team’s success in their new home. Dustin Byfuglien, also known as Big Buff, was a crucial part of the team’s defense and helped them reach the playoffs in their first three seasons in Winnipeg.
Byfuglien’s size and physicality made him a force to be reckoned with on the ice, but he also had the skill and offensive prowess to contribute to the team’s success. He recorded a career-high 53 points in the 2011–2012 season and helped lead the Jets to their first playoff series win since being back in Winnipeg.
Although Byfuglien’s time with the Jets was cut short due to personal issues and eventually retirement, his impact on the franchise and the city’s fans cannot be denied. He will always be remembered as a key member of the Winnipeg Jets’ success in their early years back in the NHL.
As the Winnipeg Jets continue to make their mark in the NHL, there is no doubt that future franchise legends will emerge. With a passionate fan base and a rich history, the Winnipeg Jets have created a legacy that will continue to influence future generations of players and fans in North America and around the world.
The impact of these iconic players on the team’s history is immeasurable, and their names will forever be etched in the hearts of fans and in the record books. The Winnipeg Jets have a bright future ahead, and the legacy of their franchise legends will continue to inspire and shape the team for years to come.