Are You Ready For Hockey?
The Jacksonville IceMen welcomed their first ever NHL/AHL partners, the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose, to the River City at a press conference today at the JAX Chamber offices. When the IceMen take the ice on October 14, their roster will contain some of the top prospects from the Winnipeg organization.
The Winnipeg Jets finished the 2016-17 season with 87 points (40-35-7), fifth in the tough Central Division, just behind eventual Stanley Cup finalist, the Nashville Predators. In recent days, the Jets have boosted their roster adding defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (from Buffalo) and goaltender Steve Mason (from Philadelphia) – two highly rated free agents.
The Winnipeg Jets began their history in the former World Hockey Association featuring one of hockey’s greatest superstars – Bobby Hull, the Golden Jet. The team entered the National Hockey League in 1976. In 1996, the team, without an NHL quality arena was sold and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. In 2011, with a new building, the Atlanta Thrashers were sold to True North Sports and Entertainment and moved to Winnipeg-the Jets were reborn.
The Manitoba Moose began as the Minnesota Moose and moved to Winnipeg for the 1996-97 International Hockey League season, before being accepted in the American Hockey League in 2001. In 2011, when the Moose ownership purchased the NHL Atlanta Thrashers, the Moose were relocated to St. John’s, Newfoundland, before returning to share the Bell MTS Place with their parent, the Winnipeg Jets in 2015.
“We are excited to launch our team with the Winnipeg organization,” said Bob Ohrablo, President of the Jacksonville IceMen. “In addition to a strong commitment to development, the Winnipeg organization has successful ties to our Vice President of Hockey Operations/Head Coach Jason Christie, who has been integral in player development for both the Jets and Moose in the past while accumulating the winningest coaching record in ECHL history.”
“Our professional sports teams play a major role in our quality of life and there’s been a buzz about the IceMen since the new franchise was announced,” JAX Chamber President and CEO, Daniel Davis said. “We appreciate Winnipeg’s investment in the Jacksonville franchise and we look forward to having a team to call our own right here in Downtown Jacksonville.”
“We are pleased to embark on our partnership with the Jacksonville IceMen,” said Craig Heisinger, Senior Vice President & Director of Hockey Operations/Assistant General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets. “The commitment the IceMen ownership has to winning on and off the ice has been unquestioned. We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with their Head Coach Jason Christie and look forward to him continuing to coach our prospects, as well as add to his ECHL record as the winningest coach in ECHL history.”
Christie accumulated a 547-349-111 record in 14 seasons as an ECHL coach. He has worked with Winnipeg in both Ontario and Tulsa. Among graduates to the NHL for Christie/Jets are: Darcy Kuemper (LA Kings and Minnesota ), Mike Condon (Pittsburgh and Ottawa), JF Berube (Chicago and NYI), Michael Hutchinson (Winnipeg) and Mark Stuart (Winnipeg).
“The Jets name is special here in Jacksonville as our youth hockey teams have chosen to honor the Naval Air Station with the Jets nickname,” added Ohrablo. “Today we bring a part of the NHL Jets organization to Jacksonville, as well as a strong effort to grow the sport of hockey here on the First Coast.”
The IceMen begin their 72 game season at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday, October 14 against the Orlando Solar Bears. Season tickets, partial plans, and group tickets are on sale now.