WINNIPEG - Moose season has opened again in Manitoba.
True North Sports and Entertainment announced Monday the Winnipeg Jets' American Hockey League affiliate will be called the Manitoba Moose, the same name the team had wehn it played in Winnipeg prior to the arrival of the Jets.
The Moose played in Winnipeg from 1996 to 2011, then headed to St. John's, N.L., to become the IceCaps when the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season.
"It was a name we were really proud of," True North chairman Mark Chipman said of the decision to resurrect the Moose moniker.
"Fifteen years is a long time and there's a lot of great players that played for that team and that name. So with (Moose) banners up in the rafters of this building, it didn't make sense to relaunch something new all over again."
The Moose will play their 76-game schedule at MTS Centre starting this fall and have a dressing room in the same building as their NHL counterparts.
Being that close to the big club was good news for Moose players J.C. Lipon and Scott Kosmachuk, who modelled the team's home and away jerseys at the press conference. The former fierce-looking moose logo remains, but the colours copy the Jets.
"It's obviously going to give you that much more motivation," Kosmachuk said. "You know there's going to be more people watching your practices."
Lipon noted he's from Saskatchewan and was a Moose fan growing up.
"Being close to (the NHL players), having friends or lived even with guys that are on the big team, it'll definitely be good," Lipon said. "Just to see how they grow and they can teach you things, that'll be nice."
True North announced the IceCaps' relocation to Winnipeg in March. It had considered moving the franchise to Thunder Bay, Ont., if a new arena was built there, but that project remains up in the air.
Chipman said having the Moose back in Winnipeg is a "long-term" situation that improves travel arrangements when players are called up to the Jets or sent back to the farm club.
It also gives local hockey fans a less-expensive option than the Jets, who have a waiting list for season tickets.
"We're just trying to make it as affordable as we possibly can, recognizing that there are lots of fans that can't afford to buy season tickets to the Jets…," Chipman said.
"This is not really a business move as much as it is a hockey move for our organization. That's where the real benefits will be gained for us as an organization, is having those players here."
Packages will range from an 11-game mini pack for $165 to $950 for all 38 home games. The average ticket price is $19.63, almost $3 less than it was for the last Moose season.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Keith McCambridge remains head coach of the Moose, and he predicted fans will be excited to watch the young players that are part of his draft-and-develop strategy.
"The biggest thing I think is the ability to have family outings, the ability to have an affordable opportunity for families to go out and watch a great level of hockey, watch some future Jets players," Cheveldayoff said.
St. John's will be home to the Montreal Canadiens' AHL club next season, and the team will keep the IceCaps name.