Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Winnipeg deserves their Jets

Obviously I am against moving professional franchises. Especially if the main motivation is greed.

This is not a column about he that can’t be named in a family newspaper. I am not open for debate on his dastardly actions.

The best way to enrage me is to spout revisionist history that he had no choice. You always have a choice, and when you make a choice, there are repercussions.

Some wounds should never heal.

If there is any city in North America that can understand Cleveland’s pain at losing the Browns it is Winnipeg.

Hockey is a religion in Canada, and citizens of the Manitoba province are among its fiercest zealots.

It is common — and basically passé now — to see fans of a sports team all wear the same color shirt. During the Cavs recent playoff runs, the team would try to shame fans to putting on a one size fits all shirt but putting them on the JumboTron to be heckled into becoming a trained sheep.

I thought that was poor taste — hey let’s humiliate the guy who just spent two grand to go to our game.

Well Winnipeg fans were the first to embrace the White-out concept. They did it out of civic pride and the love of the game. Real people in love with a team and not just the only ones who could afford a seat.

The Jets started in the World Hockey League and signed legend Bobby Hull. They won league titles in 1976, 1978 and 1979. The WHL then folded and the Jets joined the NHL.

When Browns moved from the AAFC to the NFL, they were allowed to keep their team intact. The Browns defeated the NFL defending champion Eagles in their first NFL game and went on to win the NFL title.

The NHL forced the Jets to give up three of their top six scorers and in the reclamation draft forced to draft 18th out of 21.

They went 20-49-11 their first year in NHL and won only nine games the second. The NHL really screwed them. And it wouldn’t be the last time.

By the mid 1990s, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had this idea to Americanize the game. He water-downed the talent with too much expansion and wanted franchises in the American south.

Despite a loyal fan base at the end of the 1996, or one year after we lost our beloved Browns, the Jets were moved to Phoenix. It was travesty and without question a mistake like most of Bettman’s decisions.

There was talk in late 1990s that NHL was about to pass the NBA in popularity. Now in 2011 you have to work hard if you want to watch an NHL game on TV. The southern franchises are struggling.

The Coyotes not only stole Winnipeg’s team — they stole the white-out idea. That sight would make me sick to my stomach.

Watching my old team win a title in another city was bad enough, could you imagine watching some slob in Baltimore wearing a dog mask barking up a storm? I would not have handled it well.

The team eventually went into bankruptcy, and there were rumors they would be sold back to Winnipeg last season. That would have been a perfect circle, but it didn’t happen — mostly because of Bettman’s interference.

But the next best thing is about to happen.

Atlanta, one of Bettman’s expansion pets, claims to have lost $150 million dollars and True North ,who own the minor league Manitoba Moose of the AHL, are nearing a deal to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg for next season.

Despite the reported claims of a done deal, Bettman will try any backdoor maneuver he can to keep the team out of Winnipeg. Editorials are popping up all over how a return to Winnipeg is bad for the NHL.

Bad in the sense of money, of wives not wanting to live there, of there not being enough corporations to milk money out of, how TV networks won’t want to televise from there — all reasons that have nothing to do with fans that love the sport.

But if it happens here’s hoping common sense allows the team to become the Winnipeg Jets and not the Moose or some lame cartoony nickname with no history. But Bettman’s heartless villain, I bet if a team does arrive — they vindictively kill the Jets nickname.

If Winnipeg gets a team it will be justice and possibly the greatest underdog story of all time.

When it becomes official, I was going to say I would toast with another Canada’s favorite pastimes — beer. But all their breweries have been sold off to foreign investors as well.

So Crown Royal will have to do. Here’s to our Canadian brothers of Winnipeg.

Go Jets Go.