Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weasels Are #1

I would remiss if I did not acknowledge something that happened in the world less common than the sighting of Hailey’s Comet. It might even be rarer than an NDP government exercising some semblance of fiscal responsibility, but I don’t know if I would go quite that far.

Nonetheless, this Earth-shattering event doesn’t exactly happen every day.

The Arizona Screaming Weasels, a.k.a. Phoenix Coyotes, nee Winnipeg Jets, are the champions of the Pacific Division.

That’s right. The Weasels won their division.

That’s even hard to type.

Personally, I have no use for the Weasels and I don’t particularly care whether they win the Stanley Cup or miss the playoffs. But it is a particularly noteworthy and historic event.

They claim that it is their first division title in franchise history.

It is their first division title as members of the NHL, but do you remember the last time the franchise won a division title?

It was 1976 and the Jets had finished atop the WHA’s Canadian Division, narrowly edging the Quebec Nordiques.

It was the Jets’ second and last WHA division title.

That year, the Jets were led by the Hot Line of Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, and Bobby Hull, who were together for their second season. New faces such as Peter Sullivan, Bill Lesuk, and Willy Lindstrom, along with new coach Bobby Kromm helped transform a team that had missed the playoffs the previous year into a bona fide contender.

The Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, then they met the Calgary Cowboys in the second round. The Cowboys had upset the Nordiques in an ugly series that featured Rick Jodzio’s attack on Marc Tardif at Le Colisee, prompting police presence on the ice. Jodzio later faced criminal charges for the incident.

The Jets dispatched the Cowboys in five games, then waited for the two-time defending AVCO Cup champion Houston Aeros to finish a long series with the New England Whalers. The Jets swept the Aeros and captured their first AVCO Cup championship on May 27.

Though the Jets were a bit shorthanded with injuries to defensemen Ted Green and Thommie Bergman, it is interesting to speculate as to what would have happened if they had met the Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in a true “World Series of Hockey”. It might have been the greatest series in the game’s history that was never played.

Nonetheless, that team was one of the best of its era. And they did win a division title.

It took 36 years for the franchise to win another.

I wonder how many people will be in attendance in Glendale this coming Thursday night who were even alive the last time the franchise was a division champion.

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