Three unlikely names for the NHLs return to Winnipeg

Manitoba Moose throwback jerseyThe rumors around a new team name for the NHL in Winnipeg continue to swirl. Yesterday we asked what will the Winnipeg Jets hockey team name become and since then there have been more articles circulating on speculation.

We can confirm in a Toronto Sun article that Mark Chipman of True North Sports and Entertainment (TNSE) hasn’t ruled out ‘Jets’ name for the relocated franchise.

“We know there’s lots of passion around the name. That’s how I got into this business in 1996, was the passion I felt, my family felt, for keeping the Jets here. So I get the name. I get the brand, I get the passion around it. We’re going to study it real carefully. We’ll do our best to make the right decision.”

Then comes the curve ball announced this morning. CBC is reporting that the name of the hockey franchise in Winnipeg won’t be announced until after the season ticket drive is complete.

“We want people to stay focused on the process of getting the 13,000 and getting the franchise secured because if we don’t get to the 13,000, then the signal that sends to the larger hockey community is not necessarily a positive one,” said Scott Brown, communications director at TSNE.

It will be interesting to see how the naming process unfolds. Chipman has also been quoted as saying that choosing the team name as a fan vote is also being discussed. In many online polls by large sports sites, the Winnipeg Jets name is the front runner from anywhere between 65% up as high as 87%. If it comes to a fan vote, it looks like there’s already a clear winner.

There is however a large handful of names proposed for Winnipeg. Some appear a much more viable option than others. Here’s a look at three names.

Manitoba Moose

Manitoba Moose AHL logoThe Manitoba Moose is the name of the existing AHL franchise that has called Winnipeg home ever since the Winnipeg Jets left after the 1996 season. When TSNE announced the agreement to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers on May 31, 2011, the AHL released a statement with regards to the future of the Moose franchise stating “The Manitoba Moose have been a flagship franchise for the AHL over the last decade.” It goes on to further comment “the future of the Manitoba AHL franchise will be determined in the weeks ahead, and we look forward to Winnipeg’s NHL club developing its top prospects in the AHL.”

In the years prior to the Jets departure there was a team located in St. John’s, Newfoundland. There were rumors that the Moose would be relocated back to St. John’s to grow hockey in a country that’s crazy for the sport. Just this morning CBC has reported that a tentative deal to bring the Manitoba Moose to St. John’s was on the table and TSNE will remain the franchise owner. All that’s needed is the blessing of the AHL and the city council.

So while the rumors of keeping the Manitoba Moose name for the NHL in Winnipeg keep moving, it seems a little less likely to be the case. Additionally, the Moose name is synonymous with professional amateur hockey (doesn’t that seem ironic), and some Winnipeg fans have been heard saying they’ll have a tough time shedding that perspective. Only once in the past has an AHL name been “called up” to the NHL. Back in the mid-1970s, the Cleveland Barons moved up – and look where they are now.

Winnipeg Thrashers

The Winnipeg Thrashers would be an easy name because it’s the Atlanta Thrashers that are moving. Much like when Atlanta lost its franchise to Calgary to become the Calgary Flames, it could move the name with it. The name itself, Winnipeg Thrashers, doesn’t really evoke an emotion, and that’s perfectly OK. It turns out that in the sale of the franchise to TSNE, the Atlanta Spirit Group kept the name in the transaction. Perhaps they’re hoping to bring the Thrashers back in a few season, or move the ever failing Phoenix Coyotes in a couple of season after the NHL has sold them off like a cheap auction.

In any event, we can confidently say that it won’t be the Winnipeg Thrashers.

Manitoba Jets

The Manitoba Jets seems to be a close second to keeping the Winnipeg Jets team name, and while it doesn’t have the same wring to it, I think the fans could get used to it. There’s a few arguments to go with the team name.

  1. Gary Betman, NHL commissioner, has openly stated that the NHL owns the trademark for the Jets and is willing to give it to TSNE “without taking a single penny.” That’s contradictory to what I said about being in business to make money, but he’s been quoted in a few places stating as such. The only issue here is that our sources indicate they own the Winnipeg Jets trademark and not the trademark on the Jets. Good thing, or the New York Jets from the NFL could have some issues.
  2. One savvy forum poster indicated that because of free agency rules, TNSE cannot use the name Winnipeg Jets because of Shane Doan who currently plays for the Phoenix Coyotes; the lone member of the Winnipeg Jets franchise still in the NHL. In major league sports like the NHL, MLB, CFL, NBA and NFL professional athletes can only move from one team to another either by free agency or by a trade. If the Winnipeg Jets name was used it would set a precedent in North America and pro athletes could go to the team of their choice disregarding free agency rules. There are two ways that the Jets name can be used by TNSE . If Betman orders a player in compensation from Coyotes to Jets thus a trade for Doan, (and we think that would be so cool). Or if TNSE uses the name Manitoba Jets. Manitoba Jets is a new sports team name and Doan’s old team, Winnipeg Jets, is not in existence thus legal problems are gone.We’re not entirely sure how free agency works, but it seems as though there’s a bit of an argument that he has. Of course he goes on to state he would like to see the team named the Manitoba Polar Bears.
  3. One other argument for using the Manitoba geographical moniker over Winnipeg, is that the provincial government is the mortgage backer of the MTS Centre and so would pay homage and respect to the government that has put its faith and risk in a facility.

We’re not entirely sure about the free agency issues that could pose a problem, but the Manitoba Jets could work as a team name. Of the three we listed here, it’s definitely our favorite and the favorite of others if the Winnipeg Jets name isn’t a contender. What do you think?

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Marshall Stevenson regularly contributes to one of the best Winnipeg Jets blogs as an editor and co-founder while also working on JET FUEL – a documentary about Winnipeg Jets fans. Of course he's also behind the only official, unofficial Jets fan gear site. And as if he wasn't busy enough, a co-host on the popular Winnipeg Jets focused Jets Hockey Podcast.