Since relocating from Atlanta in 2011, the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets has not had a 50-goal scorer (although Ilya Kovalchuk did accomplish the feat twice with the Thrashers, scoring 52 in both 2005-06 and 2007-08.)
While reaching the 50-goal plateau is less common and more impressive an accomplishment now than it was in the 1980s and 90s, it seems only a matter of time before one of the Jets’ current young guns pots 50-plus: Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele seem the most likely candidates.
For now, though, we have to look back to the Jets’ 1.0 era to find the three players belonging to the 50-goal club: Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, and Keith Tkachuk.
Scored 53 goals in the 1984-85 season
Hawerchuk had flirted with 50 before — he put up 45 in his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season and 40 in his sophomore campaign. In his fourth pro season, “Ducky” finally cracked 50.
Hawerchuk, the Jets’ first and only first-overall pick (1981), led the 1984-85 team with a whopping 130 points, good for third in the league behind a pair from the Edmonton Oilers – Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
While the mid-80s were a goal-lover’s dream and 50-goal scorers abounded (six players scored more than Hawerchuk that season) it was nonetheless an impressive campaign. He led the Jets — who’d never finished above .500 in their five seasons since being stripped of most of their talent in the aftermath of the NHL-WHA merger — to a 43-27-10 record and to the second round of the playoffs for the first time (they’d be swept by the Oilers.)
Hawerchuk registered 379 goals and 929 points with the Jets over nine seasons and became the face of the franchise before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a 1990 blockbuster.
In 2017, the Jets honoured their first-ever 50-goal guy by inducting him into their Hall of Fame and raising his banner to the Bell MTS Place rafters.
In August, 2020, Hawerchuk passed away after a battle with stomach cancer, leading to an outpouring of support from around the NHL and plans to erect a statue of him at Winnipeg’s True North Square.
Scored 76 goals in the 1992-93 season
76 goals as a rookie… it’s a number hard to wrap one’s head around, and aside from Wayne Gretzky’s career point total, it’s one of the NHL’s most untouchable records.
Many Winnipeggers still speak in hushed, reverential tones when discussing the Finnish Flash’s rookie campaign for the ages. His feats during that 1992-93 campaign are the stuff legends are made of.
Selanne, chosen by the Jets 10th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, went back to Finland to play with Jokerit after being selected, and didn’t make his maiden voyage to North America for the 1992-93 season. The 22-year-old was clearly ready, and quickly put the NHL on notice with his outstanding speed (in the video above, he’s seemingly always on a breakaway) and lethal shot.
Related: Teemu Selanne’s Unbreakable Record
There’s no way to put it other than Selanne put up video game numbers for a Jets squad that finished fourth in the Smythe Division. He notched no fewer than five regular-season hat tricks and 17 multi-goal games. He never went more than four games without lighting the lamp and bested Mike Bossy’s rookie goal record of 54 with more than a month to spare, and gifted the world with the famous “shoot the glove” celebration when he did it on Mar. 2 against the Quebec Nordiques.
Selanne would go on to notch 147 goals and 159 assists for the Jets over parts four seasons before being traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1996.
Selanne reached the 50-goal mark again with the 1997-98 Mighty Ducks and went on to enjoy a storied career in which he put up more than a point per game (1457 in 1451) captured a Calder Memorial Trophy, Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy, Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, 19 individual scoring records, and most importantly, a Stanley Cup.
The NHL Hall of Famer is still one of Winnipeg’s favourite sons to this day — he’s got a key to the city to prove it — for the fond memories he provided of goal after goal after goal.
Scored 50 goals in the 1995-96 season
They offer-sheeted him to keep him in Winnipeg and stripped him of his captaincy for trying to fly the coop. He must have been angry, but thankfully for the Jets, he channeled that anger into filling the net.
Prior to the 1995-96 season, the talented, hard-nosed Tkachuk signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Blackhawks worth $17 million over five years, but the Jets matched the offer to retain him despite being on the cusp of financial ruin.
Tkachuk, chosen by the Jets 19th overall in 1990, put up 22 goals in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season and the rising star had scored as many as 41 goals in a single campaign. Despite being reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Markus as having said “on numerous occasions that he would not play in Winnipeg again under any circumstances,” the power forward took his game to another level in the Jets’ final season before relocating to the desert (from ‘Hawks’ plan jettisoned; Tkachuk offer matched’, Chicago Tribune, 10/04/95.)
Tkachuk scored 50 for the first time, notching the big five-oh in the second-to-last game of the season to clinch the Jets a playoff spot. He led the team with 98 points, the highest point total of his 19-year career. Tkachuk would soon top himself, scoring 52 for the Phoenix Coyotes in their inaugural 1996-97 season.
Keith has two sons — Matthew of the Calgary Flames and Brady of the Ottawa Senators — who may one day reach the same milestone as their dear old Dad.
Tkachuk is the final Jet to notch 50. 24 years — but only nine NHL seasons in Winnipeg — have gone by since. Luckily, with players such as Laine and Scheifele, it doesn’t look like another 24 years will elapse before someone accomplishes the feat for the first time in the Jets 2.0 era.