Winnipeg Hockey History – Jets ties to Toronto

With the hiring of Randy Carlyle today by the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s an apropos time to look back in history to the interactions between the Buds and Winnipeg Jets.

Carlyle, of course, was a standout defenceman in Winnipeg during his playing days, playing his 1,000th NHL game with the club, playing in an NHL All-Star Game and even becoming an assistant coach with the team after his playing days were done. Carlyle was also a head coach with the Manitoba Moose during both their IHL and AHL tenures.

But Carlyle is just one link between the two teams. Despite being bitter rivals in the NHL (as well as in the AHL during the days of Moose vs. Marlies battles), the teams made a few deals that are fondly remembered.

Eddie Olczyk (left) with Jon Sim at the last professional hockey game at the Winnipeg Arena.

Now of course, several players and execs have shared time with both clubs. It’s inevitable when your league has anywhere between 21 and 30 teams for there to be crossover; heck, the current Jets roster boasts names like Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov who are former members of the blue and white, and the two clubs were each run by a John Ferguson (the elder with the Jets and younger with the Leafs).

But when you think Toronto and Winnipeg, there are two trades that stick out a bit more than others, at least for Winnipeg fans in the 1990s.

The first came amidst the 1990-91 season. That, of course, was the first season Winnipeg iced a club that didn’t have Dale Hawerchuk in the fold since the 1980-81 season. Early in the season, another popular Jet was dealt away from the club, as defenceman Dave Ellett, along with journeyman Paul Fenton, were sent to Toronto for Eddie Olczyk and Mark Osborne.

Of the two, Olczyk is undeniably more favourably remembered. Through two tenures with the club, Eddie endeared himself to fans both for his on-ice play (3 of his 5 seasons with the Jets saw him net more than 25 goals) and for being an important part of the community. It was he who spoke most proudly at the “funeral” for the Jets club in 1995.

But Olczyk was also a link in a second trade. This one, during the 1992-93 season, brought Tie Domi and Kris King to Winnipeg. The two were a huge hit with the club and King would even go on to be the last official captain with the Jets (though Keith Tkachuk wore the C in the last Jets game due to an injury to King).

While King would play for the Leafs after a very short stay in Phoenix, Domi, who endeared himself to fans enough to earn a sponsorship deal with local Pizza Hut locations, was sent to Toronto during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Fans were less excited by this trade between the two clubs, since, in return, the Jets received Mike Eastwood and a draft pick (Brad Isbister).

With the new franchise in Winnipeg, look for more trades between the Jets and Leafs in the future… well, at least once they’re no longer conference rivals.