Winnipeg Jets create Hall of Fame to honour legendary players
The Winnipeg Jets are launching a hall of fame and its inaugural inductees are Anders Hedberg, Bobby Hull and Ulf Nilsson, who together were known as the Hot Line.
The trio will be honoured at an induction ceremony on Oct. 19 at the MTS Centre when the Jets play the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's such an honour to be recognized. I will probably be very emotional during the ceremony, it's so nice to come back to Winnipeg," Nilsson said in a news release from the Winnipeg Jets.
"I probably had four of my best years in this city. It was amazing to play with Bobby and Anders and I am so happy Winnipeg has a team back. It's a great place to play hockey."
Those sentiments were echoed by Hull.
"Winnipeg and the Jets opened their arms for me and made me part of a changing hockey world that is today much more international. We lived in Winnipeg for only four years, but I still to a certain extent, feel like a Winnipegger.- Anders Hedberg
"It was so fabulous playing here, but to be remembered and honoured, it is quite an accomplishment that I am thankful for," he said.
"I have held my friendship with Anders and Ulf in such high esteem. Going back over the years when we played together, it was one of the happiest times of my life."
The Hall of Fame is being created to honour the impact and accomplishments of the team's hockey legends and celebrate the rich history of professional hockey in the city, states a news release from the Jets.
"The Hot Line's contributions showcased Winnipeg as an exciting hockey market and paved the way for other great players to come to our city including Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne."
The Swedish born Hedberg and Nilsson were among the first European-born players to make an impact in pro hockey in North America. Together with Hull, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, the Hot Line led the Jets to two World Hockey Association (WHA) championships in 1976 and 1978.
The WHA eventually collapsed as many teams folded by the late 1970s. The Jets and a handful of other teams were absorbed into the NHL. Just prior to the WHA's demise, Nilsson and Hedberg were lured to the NHL, both signing with the New York Rangers.
"I'm extremely proud to be first in line with the Hot Line to be inducted into the Jets Hall of Fame. It wasn't just the line that was good, we had a team that was good," said Hedberg.
"Winnipeg and the Jets opened their arms for me and made me part of a changing hockey world that is today much more international. We lived in Winnipeg for only four years, but I still to a certain extent, feel like a Winnipegger."
The induction ceremony will be the team's kick-off to the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic festivities being held all weekend in Winnipeg.
An alumni game on Oct. 22 will feature many former Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers stars, including team captains Dale Hawerchuk and Wayne Gretzky.
The current Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers will then face off on Oct. 23 in the Heritage Classic game at Investors Group Field.
- Anders Hedberg:Played with the WHA's Jets from 1974-78. In his four seasons with the Jets, he scored 100 points or more in each season, amassing 458 points (236G, 222A) in 286 games with Winnipeg and was named WHA rookie of the year in 1975. He played seven seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers before retiring from playing in 1985. Hedberg has previously been inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, IIHF Hall of Fame and the Swedish Hockey Hall of Fame.
- Ulf Nilsson: Played for the WHA's Jets from 1974-78 averaging 121 points a season in four years. Nilsson amassed 484 points (140G, 344A) in 300 games in Winnipeg, winning the playoff MVP in 1976. Following his time as a Jet, Nilsson spent four seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers. He is an inaugural member of the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame.
- Bobby Hull: A star in the NHL, Hull jumped to the rival WHA by signing a million-dollar contract with the Jets in 1972. An inductee of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, he had a 15-year career in the NHL, playing over 1000 games for the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup in 1961. He led the NHL in goals 13 times, won the Hart Trophy twice and was named to the NHL's First All-Star Team 10 times. Hull played 411 WHA games, all with Winnipeg, scoring 638 points (303G, 335A) and was named WHA MVP twice, in 1973 and 1975.