SC 2011 Year In Review: The Jets return to Winnipeg Staff

12/16/2011 10:15:07 AM

On Christmas Eve at 8pm et/5pm pt, TSN will air its annual Sportscentre Year in Review show, which counts down the top sports stories of the 2011.

Every day between now and December 24, we will discuss one of the candidates for top story of the year on SportsCentre, TSN radio and through live chats with fans every day at Noon et/9am pt here on

Today, TSN's John Lu - who was raised in Winnipeg - talks about the return of the Jets to the NHL.

During the warming days of May, the hockey world is usually focused on the best NHL teams fighting tooth and nail for the Stanley Cup.

This past spring, however, it was an off-ice battle that dominated headlines.

As the intrigue built around the Phoenix Coyotes, who were mired in their second year of an ongoing search to find new ownership, a new scenario presented itself.

Could the team - that had so famously packed up and left Winnipeg in 1996 - move back to the Manitoba capital? Suddenly, Manitoba Moose co-owner Mark Chipman and his True North Sports and Entertainment group emerged as a viable alternative to the possible solutions to the Coyotes' crisis.

Rumours persisted that the Coyotes' migration back to Winnipeg was a done deal - that the league was simply waiting for the Stanley Cup to be awarded, so as to not overshadow the year's biggest event with an off-ice story.

But then another subplot materialized.

The Atlanta Thrashers' financial struggles and inability to compete on the ice had become too much for the team's ownership group to withstand, allowing True North to step in and act quickly.

On May 31, a news conference took place in Winnipeg where commissioner Gary Bettman stepped to the microphone and gave Winnipeg the news it had waited 15 years to hear.

The NHL would return.

On June 21, the league formally approved the deal and later that week at the draft, Chipman announced that new general manager Kevin Chevaldayoff would soon be making the first pick on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets.

But the on-ice product seemed almost secondary to the euphoria that coursed through the city in the late spring and early summer months when the Jets - at long last - made their return flight to Winnipeg.