The Afternoon Shift – May 31

Farewell, Bullwinkle, farewell.

Moose hunting season has officially come to an end. And the hockey fans of Manitoba couldn’t be happier.

With today’s announcement that True North Sports and Entertainment has purchased the Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg this fall will play host to an NHL franchise for the first time since the Jets were mothballed at the conclusion of the 1995-96 season. And now the Moose, who filled the city’s hockey void as members of the IHL from 1996-01 and the AHL from 2001-11, will henceforth be known as a stopgap, the oasis during Winnipeg’s 15 years in the NHL’s desert.

Manitoba won’t miss the Moose, occupied as they’ll be by the new toy underneath their tree. But the Griffins bid a fond farewell to an organization that has been equal parts rival and kindred spirit.

Beginning with a 3-2 home win over the Moose on Dec. 14, 1996, Grand Rapids and Manitoba faced off 77 times during the regular season, with the Griffins posting an impressive 44-24-1-1-7 (0.630) series record.

More memorable, of course, will be the teams’ three playoff battles. The Griffins prevailed in an epic seven-game North Division Finals in 2006, before the Moose gained revenge with their own Game 7 win in the 2007 division semifinals. Manitoba also got the last playoff laugh in 2009, sweeping Grand Rapids in the division finals.

While fierce competitors on the ice, the Griffins and Moose organizations have long held each other in the highest esteem. Whether it’s their common IHL roots, similar management philosophies, talented staffs, professionalism, or excellence both on and off the ice, the two teams have been like brothers from different mothers.

We’ll always be proud to say “we knew them when.” And whatever name they ultimately choose, we wish them nothing but success in the NHL.

Except when they play the Red Wings, of course.

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL links:

Alumni news and notes:

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