Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Passing of Dr. Gerry Wilson

The Winnipeg Jets lost an integral part of their proud legacy when Dr. Gerry Wilson passed away on Tuesday, March 22, 2011.

For those of you who are not aware of the impact that Dr. Wilson had in the Jets' formative years, it was he who discovered Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson while he was studying in Stockholm. He helped convince the pair of Swedes to turn down more lucrative offers elsewhere and come to Winnipeg, where the Jets were on the verge of being sold and moved until the team was rescued by its citizens during the drive to turn the team over to a community ownership group, a first in the annals of pro sports.

Dr. Wilson was also responsible for many other Swedes coming to the Jets and together, they had an enormous impact on both the Jets and the game.

The Jets were struggling on the ice and at the gate and the prolific and talented Swedes transformed the Jets from also-rans into perennial contenders in the WHA. The "Hot Line" of Hedberg, Nilsson, and Bobby Hull became one of the greatest lines in the history of the game. The Jets would likely not have survived through the WHA years were it not for this infusion of talent from Europe.

Other teams then followed suit in bringing many other talented Europeans over to North America and hockey fans continue to enjoy the benefits of the fast-skating style the Europeans brought with them to this day.

For these reasons, in my capacity as a member of the advisory board of the WHA Hall of Fame, I voted for Dr. Wilson's induction in the Builder category.

Please join me in expressing my condolences to Dr. Wilson's family. It is my hope that Dr. Wilson's contributions to the legacy that we remember so fondly are ultimately recognized properly.

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