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NHL Report: January 24, 2008

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On April 28, 1996, the Winnipeg Jets lost 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings at the old Winnipeg Arena and were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. It would be the final NHL game in Winnipeg. A few months later, the Jets were unveiled in the Western American desert as the Phoenix Coyotes.





Finally, we get the true story of exactly what happened to the Jets. Scott Taylor, the renowned Canadian sports journalist who has been based in Winnipeg for decades, tells us the whole story in his latest book, "The Winnipeg Jets: A Celebration of Professional Hockey in Winnipeg."





It's a terrific read, 224 pages of fun, facts, stories and sadness. And it tells the tale, in quick and amusing snapshots, of a beloved hockey franchise that began as the flagship of the old WHA and died a slow, ugly death because the province's politicians simply couldn't get their collective heads around the fact that the team needed a new arena.





Taylor tells the story of the Jets as only a good reporter can -- with easy-to-read, insightful stories about the team's outstanding players, the heroes and the goats. There are amusing pieces of history concerning everyone from Jets founder Ben Hatskin to the Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, to the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne.





There's even an introduction from the legendary John Ferguson Sr., who wrote a beautiful recollection of his days in the Jets' front office not long before his death last year.





Working with a team that included stats maven Kris Row, Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame researcher Ed Sweeney, editor Lindsay Stewart-Glor, photographer Ken Gigliotti and designer Catherine Crivici, Taylor weaves history alongside some marvelous photos, old hockey cards and team collectibles that make this book conspicuously different and distinct.





Unfortunately, there aren't many left. The initial run of 7,000 is almost all gone. A few Chapters stores in Winnipeg still have a handful available. And Taylor himself will be on hand to sign 100 trade paperbacks at the Winkler Wal-Mart during CBC's Hockey Day in Canada on Feb. 9.





Folks outside Winnipeg might still be able to order a paperback (the hard covers are sold out) by visiting the publisher's website at www.studiopublications.net.





If it's not the best hockey book out there these days, it's certainly the most fun. I strongly recommend grabbing one if you can.






•Question: Just why are the Toronto Maple Leafs conducting a lengthy search for a new club president when Scott Bowman already has gone on record as saying that he'd do the job if he were given complete autonomy and a respectable salary?





Is there anyone else on earth who could possibly have the potential to handle this mess better than Bowman?






• Just thinking aloud here, but I wonder if John Ferguson Jr. would have even been fired this week as the Leafs' general manager if goaltender Vesa Toskala were healthy all season.





With Toskala injured for three weeks recently, the Leafs were woefully inept and the heat on the club's administration was turned up significantly. Ultimately, the administration succumbed this week and dumped Ferguson, hired Cliff Fletcher to serve as interim general manager and launched a manhunt for a new bossman.





But a healthy Toskala might have at least postponed the changes. Seriously. With Toskala in net, the Leafs are at least mildly competitive. Entering last night, Toskala was 2-0 with a 1.92 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage in the past week. If Toskala weren't sidelined with that injury, the Leafs might just be legitimate playoff contenders right now. And Ferguson might still have his job. Think about it.






• New York Islanders owner Charles Wang is promoting hockey in China and reports that interest is growing rapidly in the country.





“Perhaps one day we’ll have a Yao Ming for hockey,” Wang said.






• The Ottawa Senators gave up on Mike Comrie after last season but he’s become the Isles’ No. 1 centre and is on pace for a career-high 65 points.





”Mike’s taking advantage of opportunities he couldn’t get elsewhere,” Isles captain Bill Guerin said. “He’s a great talent.” And he’ll be a fee agent after the season.




marty.york@metronews.ca

 
 
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