Though they would use the slogan “Playing Hockey the World Over” on their media guide two years later, the Jets set off for their first European adventure in September 1975 with a 21-day tour of Finland, Sweden and Czechoslovakia, all part of their training camp. And once again, they would be trendsetters, as it would mark the first time a North American pro team would meet European club teams.
Along with the coaches and trainers, they took 19 players. Missing was Peter Sullivan. Sullivan had signed a three-year deal with the Jets during the summer, but the option clause in his contract with the Montreal Canadiens prevented him from being allowed to join the Jets. Also along for the ride were superfan Gabby Sanko and Booster Club president Gary Bigwood.
|9||Game vs. IFK||Helsinki|
|11||Game vs. Tappara||Tampere|
|12||Game vs. Finnish nationals||Turku|
|17||Game vs. Swedish nationals||Stockholm|
|19||Game vs. DIF-AIK Sodertalje||Stockholm|
|21||Game vs. Leksand||Gothenburg|
|23||Game vs. Vastra Frolunda||Gothenburg|
|25||Game vs. Czechoslovak nationals||Prague|
|26||Game vs. Czechoslovak nationals||Prague|
Coach Bobby Kromm said they were going to build a better hockey club. Bobby Hull said it was to create goodwill. General manager Rudy Pilous said it was for conditioning. But team president Bob Graham's assessment was most accurate.
“To make money,” he said.
And make money they would. The Finns would pay them $36,000 and cover the Winnipeg delegation's transportation costs, board and room along with other expenses. The Swedes would pay $75,000 and split the gate receipts with the Jets. The Czechs would cover their board and room and pay for their travel expenses back to Winnipeg. All told, the Jets would come away with a $50,000 profit from the trip. For a community-owned team running on a shoestring budget, it was extra cash they badly needed.
After traveling for 13 hours, the Jets checked in at the Hotel Hesperia in Helsinki to begin their schedule. They got off to a good start with a 7-5 win over IFK, the former club of defenseman-turned-forward Hexi Riihiranta, before a crowd of more than 10,000 who paid $7 a ticket. Two nights later, they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a 3-3 tie against the defending league champions, playing before a crowd of 8,695, most of whom had to stand as the arena seated only 2,500. Their final game in Finland saw the Jets lose 4-3, falling victim to a hot goaltender and bad ice.
The Jets nearly fell victim to something a lot more serious when their SAS DC-9 was hit by lightning while over the Baltic Sea en route to Malmo the next day, though thankfully, the team arrived safe and sound.
Their first game in Sweden came against the national team. Before the Jets arrived, the Swedish delegation was seriously discussing what to do if their team was beating the Jets too badly. But it would be their own team they had to worry about. The Jets shook off an early 2-0 deficit and pulled away for a 6-2 win that was easily the most satisfying of the trip. They followed that victory with 7-3 and 8-2 wins before having to rally from three goals down to upend Vastra Frolunda 4-3.
The Jets wound up the trip with a pair of defeats against the Czechoslovakian national team before sellout crowds of over 14,000. Nonetheless, they returned home with a 5-3-1 record, having represented their city, the WHA and themselves with distinction and setting the stage for future international trips.