Algonquin’s dean of hospitality and tourism Jim Kyte joined the Winnipeg Jets alumni roster Oct. 22, for the NHL Heritage Classic alumni game against the Edmonton Oilers alumni roster in Winnipeg.
Kyte played 598 games in the NHL including six seasons for the Jets.
As soon as Kyte found out about the alumni game he instantly expressed his interest.
“As soon as I found out about the game I sent an email to Dale Hawerchuk,” said Kyte. “And I said ‘Ducky, when are the tryouts? I want to play and beat those guys.’ And he responded and made no promises and just said start training and we will be in touch in June or July. I got the invite by email and I believe I was in my office, it was just a thrill and I was like ‘okay game on.”
While in Winnipeg, Kyte was treated like royalty throughout the unique experience and the whole city was buzzing which left him butterflies the whole game.
“Usually you get butterflies before the game, but once the game starts they’re gone,” said Kyte. “So it was unusual in a sense that as soon I got on the ice and — it doesn’t matter where you are playing — you are so focused on the game you don’t even notice the fans. But then the butterflies kept coming back between each shift.
“I had never experienced that before. I kind of looked around and took it all in and realized how special it was.”
And even though it was an alumni game, Kyte alongside his teammates still took the game very seriously and they didn’t want to lose to the Oilers alumni.
“When we fall back 5-4, everyone on our bench was a bit annoyed,” said Kyte. “We’ve had some great teams and great rivalries with the Oilers but they always found a way to win. We didn’t want history repeating itself and I didn’t want to read that the next day in the paper.”
He was matched against Ryan Smyth the whole second period, said Kyte. “He’s 40 years old, in really good shape, and he likes to crash the net and go for the rebound. So I had to be ready for that. I don’t like it when someone hits my goalie after the whistle, so I gave him a bit of a shot.”
The Jets alumni would push back to win the game 6-5 capping off with a goal from a Teemu Selanne penalty shot 3.6 seconds left in the game and a storybook ending for the city of Winnipeg.
“It was the last time this team will probably ever play together again, so at least we got bragging rights,” said Kyte.
And he would do it again in a heartbeat.
The alumni game was the first time his family got to see him play and that was special. But the event was also special for the city of Winnipeg.
“It was a wonderful weekend a wonderful celebration for Winnipeg Jets hockey,” said Kyte. “It is a real hockey town. There is a rich heritage there going back to the WHA and I’ll never forget it, but now I’m back here serving our students.”