Archives For Winnipeg Jets

I’m a Winnipegger. Born there, raised there, and, until recently, had lived there my entire life. The only live NHL game I have ever been to was around Christmas in 1996 — the visiting Chicago Blackhawks losing to the Jets. I was, and still am, a Blackhawks fan and when the first brand of Jets went south to Phoenix, it didn’t hit me that hard. I was seven-years-old, far more concerned with figuring out mathematics and when I could bring out the toboggan. With fifteen years of support for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose after the Jets departed, I grew up knowing that Winnipeg is a hockey city — not by being told, but from experiencing it first hand.

I’ve written about this before on this blog, but I woke up late the day they came back. In a move that is very uncharacteristic of myself, I called in sick to work — a lie — and headed down to the Portage and Main, followed by a walk to the Forks. The NHL was back. The city was absolutely buzzing; it still is. It was something I had never experienced in Winnipeg.

Lost within the buzz was the reality of what was coming to Winnipeg.

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In 2004, the NHL’s entry draft wasn’t much about who would be selected with the first two picks — for all involved it was almost a lock.  Alexander Ovechkin, the enthralling talent certain to be a star in the NHL, was going to go first overall to the Washington Capitals and Evgeni Malkin, the enigmatic centerman who was very much in the shadow of Ovechkin heading into the draft, had been pegged as the Pittsburgh Penguins pick long before draft day.

The speculation that surrounded the draft, however, was the order of the picks after that.  Juxtaposed to the situation in which Washington and Pittsburgh had been thrust, the Chicago Blackhawks had the arduous task of selecting third in a draft class that had uncertainty surrounding many of the picks outside the top two.  Yet, when Dale Tallon, Chicago’s general manager at the time, approached the podium on draft day, he promptly made his selection choosing Cam Barker of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers.  The selection, at the time, made sense in a situation where the ‘Hawks were in the midst of a massive rebuild.

Immediately after the pick had been made by Tallon and his Blackhawks and Barker et al had cleared the stage, Gary Bettman approached the microphone atop the podium to announce a trade.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, pegged to select fourth overall had dealt away their pick.  The deal, made with the draft host Carolina Hurricanes, sent the crowd into an eruption of cheers.  In exchange for Columbus’ fourth overall pick, Carolina traded the eighth and fifty-ninth overall selections of that days draft.  The eighth pick would become winger Alexandre Picard, the fifty-ninth would turn into defenseman Kyle Wharton.

With Bettman away from the podium, it was the hometown Carolina Hurricanes turn to approach the stage and make their first selection of the ’04 Entry Draft.

Ladd, selected fourth overall, is the only 2004 First Rounder to have a Stanley Cup ring, let alone two.

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