[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
1. Helmet Pardy
Back on November 6, 2013 in a game against the Blackhawks in Chicago, Jets defenceman Adam Pardy was put through the glass by Brandon Bollig. While that is usually sufficient to get the fans excited a couple of rowdy Hawks fans decided to take it to the next level.
First, Pardy’s helmet was ripped off his head by a rather inebriated fellow who then proceeded to put the sweaty bucket on his lid. To add insult to injury his lady friend then dumped her full beer on Pardy. Post game Pardy joked, “it was a waste of good beer.”
A local Winnipeg radio station then tried (unsuccessfully) to get a Helmet Pardy night organized when the Blackhawks were next in town whereby fans would wear their hockey helmets to the game in “honour” of this unusual event.
However, this was kiboshed by the Jets organization who saw it as a lack of respect for the Hawks organization.
Or perhaps it was due to the potential liability the franchise might face if someone scored a hat trick and 15,004 helmets came crashing down towards the ice surface. (Of course this was unlikely as the team didn’t have a hat trick in any of their previous seasons in Winnipeg and wouldn’t achieve this mark until December 5, 2014 when Bryan Little scored the first since an Eric Bolton trick on December 18, 2010, a span of 286 games).
2. Teemu Selanne’s return to Winnipeg
While the return of the Finnish Flash to Winnipeg back on December 17, 2011 in of itself isn’t weird, the unusual/weird aspect was the mixed booing and cheering that occurred anytime his linemates/he touched the puck.
Fans in Winnipeg get lots of praise for their antipathy (generally via chants) towards opposition players and even local NHLers will be cheered if they get torched (think Dustin Byfuglien steamrolling Mark Stone last season).
However on that balmy night (it was only -5 celsius) in December at the MTS Centre, Teemu Selanne got cheered every single time he touched the puck. It was easily one of the most unique/odd games I’ve ever seen as we watched his line play the puck and heard the fans boo Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf while interspersing this with cheers for Teemu.
This even extended to when a goal was scored against the Jets. Niklas Hagman scored (he got booed), Selanne drew the assist (he got cheered) and the secondary assist went to Sheldon Brookbank (he got booed).
Of course the Jets were up 2-0 at that point so perhaps the fans were feeling magnanimous.
3. Jets fans cheering Gary Bettman
Yes, the same Commissioner of the NHL who is booed every time he presents the Stanley Cup and who was seen as persona non grata in the city of Winnipeg following the departure of the Jets 1.0 to Phoenix.
When the Jets left the first time around Bettman was seen by many in Winnipeg as someone who wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to ensure the franchise stayed in Manitoba. Instead he was held personally responsible as the individual who had stolen the franchise so he could grow the game south of the border.
Throughout the years when there was talk or relocation or expansion and fans heard Bettman talk about Winnipeg the radio stations call in shows would light up about how Bettman wouldn’t want to see the team return. If you lived in the 204 you more than likely held a very negative view of the NHL Commissioner between 1996 and 2011.
All of that seemed to change when the city of Winnipeg was given a second chance at their NHL dream, a reality that co-owner Mark Chipman indicated couldn’t have happened without the support of Gary Bettman.
I was present in the atrium of the MTS Centre that fateful day on October 9, 2011 when Commissioner Gary Bettman walked through the crowd of Jets fans packing the building to as he made his way to a radio appearance on TSN 1290 Winnipeg. Has this was the very same Gary Bettman tried to walk through a crowd of Winnipeggers one year earlier it would have been a very different result, but on that day, the fans cheered him and even began a “Thank You Bettman” chant.
Had I not been there I may not have believed it. Will be interesting to see how he is received when presenting the Jets with the Stanley Cup in 2019 …..
4. The Evander Kane track suit in the shower shenanigans
When the Jets were visiting British Columbia back in February of 2015 reports began to filter out that there had been some sort of incident with Evander Kane and that he would be a scratch against the Canucks. This was big as the Vancouver native; as it is for most NHLers when they have opportunity to play in front of friends and family. He was excited to play at home.
All that coach Paul Maurice would say was,“I know that when I come out and say coach’s decision that I open all of us up to a tremendous amount of speculation, and I can live with that”.
Of course that is exactly what it led to.
Media and fans alike speculated about what could have occurred. While we don’t know all the details of tracksuit-in-the-shower-gate or what exactly happened between Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien there sure seemed to be enough smoke for folks to yell ‘fire.’
While former captain Andrew Ladd attempted to keep the situation between the players in the room and not with the media the information leaked out. Just two days later Kane was shut down as he had surgery on a lingering injury which knocked him out for the rest of the season and was ultimately followed by his trade to the Buffalo Sabres.
Of course if you read this timeline of the relationship between Kane/Jets/fans the entire situation qualifies as weird (or unfortunate but since this is about weird occurrences I will stick with that one).
5. No official team name at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
When it was announced that the team was moving from Atlanta to Winnipeg, fans immediately began – who am I kidding, they were doing it well in advance of same – to consider possible team names for the soon to be reborn franchise.
While the majority seemed to immediately want a return to their WHA/Jets 1.0 roots there was speculation that the organization may go in a different direction.
There was some thought the name could be Moose (paying homage to the AHL franchise that had played in Winnipeg after the Jets left for Arizona), the Polar Bears (we have many in Northern Manitoba), the Falcons (a Winnipeg based team that won the first ever Olympic gold medal in hockey during the Summer Games in Belgium) or even the Victorias (a Winnipeg based team that won the Stanley Cup on three occasions in 1896, 1901 and 1902 prior to the Stanley Cup only being played/won by professional squads) but none of these would do for the fans in Manitoba.
They wanted their Jets back.
The organization choose to keep the name secret until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft when team co-owner Mark Chipman stepped up to that podium in St. Paul Minnesota and indicated that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would be making “our first pick on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets”.
While the team name was officially out, moments later when Mark Scheifele became the first selection he had to put on a generic NHL uniform. Each choice made in 2011 by the organization wore this same generic uniform.
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Atlanta Thrashers Honorably Weird
While I’d like to comment on something weird that happened with the Thrashers organization, I didn’t cover them in any capacity to have any of my own insight.
Although I suspect many residents of Atlanta would suggest that the ownership of the Atlanta Spirit was weird enough. Of course the team was supposedly going to be purchased (and saved) by a shadowy character who wanted to remain nameless and went by the pseudonym, “The Balkan.” So that, too, is a tad weird.
Winnipeg Jets 1.0 Honourably Weird
While I attempted to keep this about the current Jets franchise there were a number of weird incidents that happened to that first incarnation of Winnipeg.
This unusual/weird occurrence takes us back to the Jets of the WHA era who had scheduled a four game series against the famed Russian National team during the 1977-78 season.
The first three games took place in Tokyo, Japan and the last one back in Winnipeg. The fact that the WHA Jets played a Soviet team in of itself isn’t that unusual as the NHL held a Soviet Series from 1976-1991 but those were played in the home rink of the NHL squad and the WHA played games that counted in the standings against Russian and European squads.
However, in this instance you had a team leaving North America during the season to play games across the world.
These weren’t the days that teams flew on private jets. Nope, it would have been commercial travel for those fellas.
While the Jets dropped the three games in Tokyo they did manage to knock off an undefeated against NHL/WHA team Russian squad at the old Winnipeg Arena. Bobby Hull had a hat trick and Ulf Nilsson managed a pair in front of the home crowd.
And it couldn’t have had too adverse an impact as the Winnipeg Jets won the Avco Cup that season over the New England Whalers.
Previous Weird NHL Posts: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Pittsburgh | San Jose | St. Louis | Tampa Bay | Toronto | Vancouver | Washington
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About the author: Dave Minuk is the editor of illegalcurve.com and an analyst on the Illegal Curve Hockey Show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg. He has covered the Jets since their return in 2011 and also covers the AHL Manitoba Moose since their move back to Winnipeg in 2015. Follow him on Twitter: @ICdave