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The Jets' final flight

Canada is a hockey nation, but has had a heck of a time preventing its hockey franchises from going south. From the (then) defunct Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques to financial messes in Edmonton and Ottawa, the CBC has followed the ups and downs of Canada's small-market NHL teams as they forever skate on thin ice.

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Losing a hockey team is becoming a Canadian rite of spring. Last year's "Save Our Jets" campaign was only a stay of execution. After tonight's final home game, the Winnipeg Jets are heading 1,907 kilometres southwest to their new home in Phoenix, Ariz. The outdated Winnipeg Arena hosts a party and a funeral. As fans look back at the team's rise and fall, an uncomfortable question: Can the 'Peg still call itself a major league town? 
• After public efforts to save the Jets failed to result in a signed deal, Winnipeg Jets owner Barry Shenkarow announced that the team's 1995-96 season would be the last one in Winnipeg. In October 1995 the Winnipeg Jets were sold to Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern of New York for $65 million. On April 28, 1996 the Jets played their last game, a 4-1 loss to Detroit that eliminated them from the playoffs in the first round.

• The new owners moved the franchise to Phoenix, Ariz., that summer, where the team became the Phoenix Coyotes. Burke bought out Gluckstern on Sept. 12, 1997. In 2000 Burke sold the team to developer Steve Ellman, partner Jerry Moyes and retired hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for $90 million.

• Phoenix (population 1,321,045 in 2000) is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000-2002, three of the top five fastest growing cities in the country are Gilbert, Peoria and Chandler, Arizona - all suburbs of Phoenix. Winnipeg (population 657,997 in 1996) is expanding too - it posted the fifth-highest growth rate in Canada in 2004.

• By adding the Coyotes, Phoenix became home to teams for all four major league sports (including baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, basketball's Phoenix Suns and football's Arizona Cardinals.)
• Without the Jets, Winnipeg sports fans have the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from the CFL, the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club of the 10-team Northern League.

• The average yearly temperature in Phoenix is 23 C.
• At the time of the Jets' move to Phoenix, it was estimated that about 600 area children played organized hockey. The number in Winnipeg -- with roughly half the population -- was around 24,000.

• In May 2011, Winnipeggers learned that they would once again have an NHL team. The Atlanta Thrashers folded and the team was purchased by True North Sports and Entertainment, which brought the team to Winnipeg and renamed it the Jets.

Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: April 24, 1996
Guest(s): John Ferguson, Tom McVeigh, Hal Sigurdson
Reporter: Glen Kirby
Duration: 5:52
Hockey footage: National Hockey League

Last updated: October 2, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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