As the clock turned over at midnight last night, it officially marked 35 years since the last championship was won by the Winnipeg Jets.
It was May 20th, 1979, when the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets met for Game Six of the best-of-seven series in the WHA Finals, with the Jets holding the opportunity to win the Avco Cup at home.
Game Six would be owned by Winnipeg, whose playoff experience, led by veteran Bobby Hull, largely out-weighed that of the Oilers, who had a budding star by the name of Wayne Gretzky. Dave Semenko‘s goal with 12 seconds remaining in the game was as close as the Oilers would come, as the Jets won 7-3, winning their franchise’s third Avco Cup in seven years.
The Jets were officially a dynasty. 3 championships, along with 5 finals appearances, was unmatched by any other team in the WHA. Times were good in Winnipeg.
That season would be the last in the league’s history. The WHA folded under pressure from the National Hockey League, and the Jets, along with the Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, and New England Whalers, defected to their long-standing rival league. Although the likes of Bobby Hull stuck around in the city, they could never reclaim their dominance in the NHL, and the franchise played their last game in April of 1996, moving to Phoenix, Arizona the next season.
The Jets are back in town after the relocation of the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise, and after three seasons, are still waiting on their first playoff appearance. Until then, memories of the 1979 Avco Cup win will be the most recent that long-time Winnipeg supporters can draw back on. For some, including myself, we will have to wait until the Stanley Cup makes its first trip to the MTS Centre to experience a hockey championship for the first time.
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