5,776 days ago, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 7-1 at the Winnipeg Arena. Jeff Friesen had a hat trick and rookie Jan Calhoun scored his first two NHL goals on his first two shots. A little over a month later, the Jets were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings and were off to the desert as the Phoenix Coyotes.
As the Coyotes played on in Phoenix and eventually Glendale, Winnipeg had the relocated Minnesota Moose of the IHL. The Moose made the jump to the AHL years later, but the passion for the NHL was still there. A new arena was built but many said not quite to NHL standards. With the struggles of the Coyotes looming over the league, it looked like the former Jets were heading home. However in Atlanta, uninterested ownership wanted out quickly and with no local buyers available, the Moose’s ownership group, True North Sports & Entertainment, snatched up the Atlanta Thrashers in the offseason. The new Winnipeg Jets have been a hit in Manitoba. Over 15,000 fill the MTS Centre and will for at least the next few years. One of hockey’s most passionate fan bases is back.
And so the West Side Story game returns after nearly a 16 year absence.
Ok ok, not quite hockey style, but here are some videos to remind you of the memories of the Sharks vs. Jets.
Jeff Friesen scoring a sweet goal in his rookie season.
Darren Turcotte, recently traded by Winnipeg to San Jose, goes coast to coast in the last Sharks – Jets game in 1996.
16 years ago, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were in their junior rookie seasons in the Canadian Hockey League. The only player left in the league that played for the Sharks in that March 1996 game is Ray Whitney, who ironically plays for the organization he played against, which now calls the Arizona desert home.
Onward to the game tonight, San Jose coming off of a tough loss to Minnesota after coming back to tie it late in regulation. While the Sharks will be without Colin White, Jim Vandermeer, and Martin Havlat, the Jets will be without Shark killer Dustin Byfuglien, and possibly Zach Bogosian, Alexander Burmistrov, and Tanner Glass. Along with the sudden schnide by Evander Kane, Winnipeg’s hopes for a whiteout clad playoff run have hit a skid. Team Teal needs to come on strong and play their game. They cannot allow the Jets, let alone what some say is now the loudest arena in the NHL carry any momentum.
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