- Rick Haley
Winnipeg Jets 500 Club
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Winnipeg Jets Most Games Played
There are lots of articles, lists and social media posts about longevity and most games played by Winnipeg Jet players. Some cite the Jets 1.0 and include the Coyotes. Others highlight Jets 2.0 players and add the Thrashers records while you can even find lists of the olden WHA days (thanks Quanthockey.com). If you follow my Tweets or have looked at my Blog, you know that I like to look at all Winnipeg stats: WHA, 1.0 and 2.0. Only. And together.
So while Bobby Hull or Bryan Little may lead some lists, very few look at all-time Winnipeg Jet records across leagues and eras. Silly you say? Well, consider this. If we simply follow what the NHL says regarding who holds certain team records, the greatest Winnipeg Jet scorer is Ilya Kovalchuk (328 goals). Who has played the most games for the Winnipeg Jets? Must be Shane Doan (1540 games) even though only the first 79 were in an actual Jet uniform. You get the point.
Five hundred games may not seem like much. But it is. In the NHL, it is huge. The average NHL career is about 320 games. These numbers are somewhat fluid though. Where the top 25% of players in the NHL play 800-900 games, the bottom 75% play only around 200 (www.hockeyanswered.com). So 500 is something and especially 500 with one team is worth mentioning.
So what Jets have played 500 games or more for the franchise? Turns out 13 players have played over 500 games for Winnipeg through 3 different eras (as of November 25, 2021). Adam Lowry should hit the number this year, while Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp could do it in 2022-23.
Eight players are from the Jets 1.0 days and four from the current iteration. No surprise that they are Blake Wheeler, Mark Schiefele, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien, all having been here from 2011. Andrew Ladd sits at 348 games played for the Jets. Morris Lukowich is the lone WHA holdover, playing 80 games for the Jets in their last WHA season.
Bobby Hull is the WHA leader at 411 games. Not bad considering the Jets only played a total of 555 games over 7 seasons.
The Top 5 @ 500 Plus
Thomas Steen sits atop the heap at 950 games. Too bad he couldn’t have hung on for another season to make it all 1000 in a Winnipeg jersey. Only about 50 players have hit 1000 games for one team in 104 years of NHL hockey. Steen was a solid number 2 center behind the high scoring Dale Hawerchuk.
Next up is Wheeler. A perennial scorer, Wheeler really found his groove after becoming the captain. With 2 more years on a steep salary, chances are Wheeler will end his career in Winnipeg and barring injury, challenge Steen for most games played.
Dale Hawerchuk sits 3rd at 713 games played. While the big trade in 1990 looked okay with Phil Housley feeding Teemu Selanne for a boatload of goals, Hawerchuk continued at a point a game pace for his next 300+ games. Would have been nice to see that happen in Winnipeg and have him reach 1000 games here.
Moose Jaw’s Doug Smail, at five-nine, 175 was a long time favourite in a Jet’s jersey. Not often skating with the big guns, Smail still put up almost 400 points in 691 games for the team.
Will Mark Schiefele be the first Jet to play 1000 games for the hometown team? He is signed through to 2024. Barring injury, he will have played approximately 800 games in a Jet sweater at that point. He will be 31 years old and likely looking for his last big payday contract. Does it happen? I will argue that his performance and the teams play over the next 3 years will dictate what occurs. Win a cup and he takes the Conn Smythe? He gets 5 more and they build a statue. Anything less? Some GM with deep pockets adds him at the trade deadline in March 2024.