The other day we had the privilege of chatting directly with David Spence, a former Winnipeg resident, long time Jets fan and now an infamous weather meteorologist in Canada’s worst weather city – Calgary, Alberta.
Winnipeg White Out: Our conversation started with a couple of tweets that our Twitter avatar brought back a lot of memories for you. The logo is from the first Jets organization in the WHA of the early 70s. What was the first memory that came to mind when you saw it?
David Spence: I grew up in Winnipeg, and that logo brought back memories of the WHA Jets. I was there (just a kid, mind you) when Ben Hatskin signed Bobby Hull to his million dollar contract. As a boy, I was a member of the Junior Jets fan club, which used that logo. I had long forgotten the Junior Jets fan club for many years, until I saw that logo.
WWO: Based on the success of the Jets in the WHA, where would you rank them in comparison to the Oilers ‘dynasty’ years? Wouldn’t that have been a great match-up to watch.
DS: Honestly, I don’t think you can compare the two. Hull, Hedberg, and Nilsson were great, not to mention Norm Beaudin. However, I think the Greztky, Messier dynasty would have crushed them. Sacrilegious, I know.
WWO:Your memories of the Winnipeg Jets span a long time and there’s no doubt the last 15 years has likely caused some memory loss, but I’m sure they’re still in there. Who were your favorite players out of all the seasons?
DS: Bobby Hull, no question. A fun guy to watch. His speed was remarkable. There were no helmets in those days, and you wondered if the speed Hull generated would cause his hair to pop out of the implants. Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson were spectacular at times, as was Christian Bordeleau. In the 80s, during the time I had season tickets, there was Dale Hawerchuk, Randy Carlisle, Thomas Steen. They were all terrific. And you always wondered how long it would take before a fight broke out every time Jim Kyte stepped onto the ice. Brian Hayward had his moments in goal, as did Joe Daley way back in the WHA days.
WWO: There’s a lot of speculation on the name of the NHL team in Winnipeg. What are your thoughts on reviving the Winnipeg Jets name? If they choose a different name, what do you think would be the best one?
DS: Gotta be the Jets. In my mind, there is no alternative. I do realize this has become a polarizing issue. Those who want Jets REALLY want Jets. Those who don’t are of the belief that the Jets can’t be replaced, and there should be a new name. I understand their point of view, but I disagree with it.
WWO: Since they’ll be back in Winnipeg and you’re in Calgary, are you planning on watching a match-up if it happens either in Calgary or Winnipeg? And of course who will you cheer for?
DS: That’s a tough one. I have never felt as close to the Flames as I did to the Jets. But I am a Calgarian now, so it’s tough. And yes, I do intend to be in the stands, if possible, when Winnipeg plays here. I don’t travel to Winnipeg as often as I’d like to, but maybe an NHL game would be a good reason to go. I’ve never been inside the MTS Centre.
WWO: There’s a number of great players from the past era of the Jets and now there’s a chance for some young guys to come in and make a difference. Are there any players you’re excited to see play in Winnipeg? Who do you think will have the most success?
DS: Isn’t Selanne the only former Jet still playing? I could be wrong. I think there will be many years to go before they become a contender. It’s hard to answer this question, because in order to become a contender, the team will have to have a whole new look, which will have to evolve over time. It’s hard to predict who will shine there. The Winnipeg fans don’t necessarily embrace the best player on the team. At least in my day, they tended to embrace those who connected with the community. Off ice behavior was just as important as play on the ice.
WWO: Atlanta has had a team leave before, ironically it was the Flames, only to get another expansion team. This is Winnipeg’s second chance and while a lot has changed over the last fifteen years, there’s no doubt there’s still a risk the team could leave again. In your mind, what do the fans, city, province, ownership group and the league need to do to make this a success?
DS: They need to support the team with a full rink every game. The arena is small, and the corporate community is not large there like it is here in Calgary. The people of Winnipeg know if they screw this up, the NHL would be gone for life. I think there is motivation there for the team to prosper. Winnipeggers just can’t sit back and say David Thomson has the money….they have to participate, too, and get out to the games. That’s what made the Jets so special the first time around. The community supported the team…the ordinary guy went to the games…with less reliance on the corporate sector to carry the team. That will have to happen again this time around.
WWO: Can I get a “Go Jets Go”?
DS: Go Jets Go!
WWO: Thanks again for your time David and best of luck predicting the Calgary weather. I’m not sure if I’d rather have your job or the head officials on opening night in Winnipeg; both seem quite challenging.