In Winnipeg hockey lore, it’s a moment that lives in infamy: as a 22-year-old Dale Hawerchuk sliced into the Calgary Flames’ zone during Game 3 of the Smythe Division semi-final, he was felled by a vicious crosscheck from Jamie Macoun that broke a rib of the Jets’ dynamo. In an instant, Hawerchuk, Winnipeg’s star and greatest hope for a deep run, was sidelined for the remainder of the post-season. And though he was two provinces away at the time, his teenaged self muffling the sound of the radio by tucking himself under a blanket, Linzy Jones, vice president, ticket sales and operations for True North Sports & Entertainment, can still remember his feeling of devastation more than 35 years later.
“I mean, almost in tears,” Jones said.
It was far from the last time Jones felt a similar sense of grief about his hometown heroes. There were, of course, plenty more heart-wrenching playoff defeats, but worse than any early exits was the team’s relocation. Despite fan efforts to rescue the franchise – of which Jones was part, chipping in a couple-hundred dollars as locals rallied to save the Jets – Winnipeg departed for Phoenix in 1996. Jones recalls watching those final contests and, at least at the time, watching his childhood fantasy dashed.
“I always said I want to work for the Winnipeg Jets one day,” Jones said. “That was my dream and aspiration.”
In 2004, however, Jones’ dream found a tiny spark. Having spent several years in local radio before transitioning to sales positions, a natural fit given his gift of gab, Jones saw an opportunity come open when Bell MTS Place, formerly MTS Centre, was set to open its doors and become the new home of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
“I worked in customer-facing jobs all my life, had a knack for relationship building,” Jones explained. “And that's how I landed at (TNSE) in an inside sales role and worked my way up the ladder internally.”
Truthfully, though, Jones didn’t so much work his way up the ladder as he did skyrocket up the ranks. Within one year, Jones was on to a customer service position. Less than three years after that, he was managing the department and the ticket administration team. And in mid-2011, not long after TNSE announced the purchase and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Jones became the director of ticket sales and service. Only months earlier, he had assisted in the Drive to 13,000 season-ticket campaign. The seats – every last one – was sold out in 17 minutes.
“The moment the phones started ringing off the hook once the announcement was made… Wow. That was magical.”
Magic has taken on a different meaning for Jones in the decade since the Jets’ return. From his role during the Moose days to his present-day duties, which includes plenty of work with the NHL club, Jones has built longstanding relationships with season-ticket holders. He has watched families grow, children age and Moose fans lovingly embrace the Jets. Seeing the next generation fall in love with the team as he once did brings a joy to the job that goes beyond the glamour of working for a big-league organization. And while it was once a childhood dream, it’s not something he could have expected when he first joined the team 17 years ago.
“One of my thoughts at the time was that, 'Wow, I can work for a hockey team, a sports team, as a die-hard sports fan. Dream come true,’” Jones said. “I thought I'd take a chance on that, and then everything else happened from there.”