On October 9th, 2011, the Winnipeg Jets returned to the Manitoba capital for the first time in almost 15 years. Long time Jets fans had new heroes to watch, while new fans finally had players that they felt really belonged to them. Looking back however, we know the Jets of that first year were not the greatest team ever assembled. In fact many names from that opening year roster have been completely lost by fans. So let’s take a trip down memory lane to check in with some of our old favourites, where are they now?
Antropov is probably the biggest name on this list, both in NHL pedigree and sheer size. Antropov’s time in Winnipeg is of course most remembered for scoring the first goal in Jets history. Antropov spent parts of 14 seasons in the NHL, playing 788 games and 193 goals and 272 assists. His year in Winnipeg was serviceable, 69 games, 15 goals and 20 assists, yet the Jets did not re-sign the big forward.
Antropov in fact did not return to the NHL, he signed a two-year deal with Barys Astana in the KHL. Antropov played out his contract, scoring 15 goals in just over 70 games in his KHL stint. Antropov also appeared for team Kazakstan at the 2014 World Championships. Antropov left the KHL when his contract ended and was eyeing a possible NHL return for this season. He received no offer however and his playing career was left in doubt. At 35 years old, Antropov is not playing this season but the veteran has not officially un-laced his skates yet.
The 5’9, 180lb centerman made himself a fan favourite in his one year in Winnipeg. The feisty fourth liner did not let his lack of size get in the way, playing tough and strong all season. His year in Winnipeg, Stapleton set career highs with 11 goals and 16 assists in 63 games. His NHL career totals ended at 118 games with 19 goals and 18 assists. Since leaving the Jets, Stapleton has been playing overseas bouncing around the KHL. After playing for his fourth KHL team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, last year, Stapleton left the KHL and signed in the Swiss league for EHC Biel. Stapleton has worked hard for a roster spot his whole career and he continues to do so no matter what country or league he plays in.
Mason was the Jets back-up goalie the first year in Winnipeg. Playing in 20 games overall, Mason put up 8 wins and an .898 save percentage, adding two shutouts. Though he had limited action, Mason was a fan favourite among Jets fans and he brought some veteran leadership to a very young team. Mason did enough in his year in Winnipeg to earn another NHL contract, signing with the Nashville Predators in 2012/13. Mason also played a season in the Italian league as well as the German league before taking off the pads for the final time. Mason is now part of the Predators broadcast team doing colour commentary for the team.
Jones was a mainstay on the Jets blue line, playing 39 games in Winnipeg’s inaugural season scoring just once and adding a lone assist. The Jets were Jones’ fourth NHL team and likely his last. He signed AHL contracts the next two seasons including a rather successful stint with the Portland Pirates. Jones has not played competitive hockey since 2014 and though not official announced, it is expected he has retired from the game. At 34 years old a comeback would seem far-fetched but in the world of hockey you never know what could happen.
We saved perhaps the most successful former Jet for last. Oduya never really endeared himself to Jets fans in his one season in Winnipeg.
His career in Winnipeg started with the turnover above and he never really recovered in the eyes of the Jets fans. He was traded before the 2012/13 season for a second and third round pick. Jets fans were happy with the return at the time but as it has played out, the Hawks got the best of that trade. Oduya spent four seasons with the Blackhawks which included two Stanley Cups and some huge goals. Oduya left the Hawks this past summer signing a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.