The Manitoba Moose, the AHL team responsible for the NHL’s return to Winnipeg, are heading back to the MTS Centre. In a press conference Monday afternoon, True North Sports and Entertainment, the group that owns the Winnipeg Jets, announced the return of the Moose, including the unveiling of the updated logo, jerseys and ticket and pricing packages for the club that will begin play this upcoming AHL season. “The opportunity to bring the American League team home, back to Winnipeg, is certainly something that I’m very proud to be a part of,” said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. “I want to thank our ownership group, True North Sports and Entertainment, for the vision to be able to allow us to get to this point.”
The Moose, who for 15 years called Winnipeg home, were the final tenant of the city’s famed Winnipeg Arena and, when the MTS Centre opened its doors in 2004, they were the building’s primary spectacle. After Cheveldayoff spoke about the organization’s interest in making the Moose part of the fabric of the Winnipeg hockey community and taking part in initiatives that get the Moose players involved throughout Manitoba’s capital, the name of the club was made official. In a video that highlighted the logo’s new Jets-themed color scheme – which had accidentally been unveiled in a quick technical glitch earlier in the live broadcast of the press conference – press conference viewers were met with the tag line, “It all starts here.”
“I couldn’t help but reflect driving down to work today – it’s been 19 years since we first introduced the Moose brand in Winnipeg back at the Winnipeg Arena,” said True North Sports and Entertainment’s executive chairman Mark Chipman. “It’s really gratifying and very exciting to reintroduce a brand that we were very, very proud of for 15 years. … The support we had from this community was remarkable. Frankly, we wouldn’t be in the NHL today but for those 15 years, and I wouldn’t give back any one of those years.” During their AHL tenure, the Moose were often at or near the top of the average attendance in the league. During their final season in 2010-11, only Hershey averaged a greater attendance than Manitoba’s 8,404 per game. The average attendance throughout the league was 5,380. Aside from shifting the club and its players from St. John’s to Winnipeg for 2015-16, there won’t be many more changes, however. Coaching the club next season will be Keith McCambridge who has spent the past four seasons patrolling the bench for the Jets former affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. Joining McCambridge in Manitoba will be Mark Morrison, as assistant coach from St. John’s. To round out the front office for the newest AHL club will be Brad Andrews, who will serve as the director of hockey operations under GM Craig Heisinger. The shift of the Jets affiliate from Newfoundland to Manitoba doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It had been rumored for more than a year that the Jets wished to move their affiliate closer to Winnipeg for ease of scouting and to be able to keep a closer eye on prospects, though many believed the Jets’ AHL club was destined for Thunder Bay, Ont. Winnipeg is now the second NHL franchise to have their AHL squad located in the same city and playing in the same building as the big club. The other, San Jose’s NHL Sharks and AHL Barracuda, was announced earlier this off-season as part of the AHL’s new Pacific Division.