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Michael GobutyBy HARVEY ROSEN
Attend any Winnipeg Jet game today and you will no doubt notice that very young children and teen-agers occupy the arena seats in surprisingly large numbers. And, the impressive scoreboard above centre ice permits spectators of all ages to appear in giant close-ups while enjoying noisy and mischievous merrymaking.


Do the aforementioned - youngish especially - care from whence sprung the likes of NHL calibre hockey in this berg? Not likely. The majority of them probably didn’t much fancy the study of history of any kind back in their olden school days when their homework assignments weren’t done because they left their texts in the locker by mistake.
Well then, allow me to give them the opportunity today to redeem themselves with a subject many will surely enjoy known as ice hockey in the grand old city of Winnipeg.
Each year, at its Sportsmen’s Dinner, the YMHA saluted outstanding sports personalities in our province. Back in the late seventies, at the International Inn, a group of eight Winnipeg businessmen, including MICHAEL GOBUTY,  HARVEY SECTER, and the SHENKAROWS were acknowledged for their contributions towards salvaging pro hockey in our city and eventually, through dogged determination, bringing an NHL franchise to a hockey-hungry population.
Had the group not darted into the fray when it did and shored up the financial structure, it is entirely possible that the Jets would have joined their former brethren: the Los Angeles Sharks, Michigan Stags, New York Raiders, and the Fighting Saints from Minnesota, in hockey’s graveyard.
In 1978, the aforementioned group of eight saw their team win a third Avco Cup despite the many adversities it suffered. To wit: The loss of superstars Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson to the New York Rangers; the untimely retirement of Bobby Hull early in the season; the defection to the NHL of Dan Labraaten, Garry Bromley, and Lars-Erik Sjoberg; a mid-season coaching change; and rumoured dissension.
By 1979, the vast majority of World Hockey Association teams had folded. Four teams though were absorbed into the NHL: the Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers,  Hartford Whalers, and the Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg had to give up three of its top six scorers plus the core of the last WHA championship team in a reclamation draft. In the team’s first regulation NHL draft ever they got to choose 18th out of 21 teams. Compared with that, today’s latest expansion team in Las Vegas was treated royally.  A decimated outfit, the Jets finished dead last in the league in their first two seasons.
Early in my tenure at this newspaper, it became clear to me that the Jewish community rallied around our NHL team like no other. My assignment one evening on October of 1978 was to attend a B’nai Brith event at the Viscount Gort. The visiting guest was Jets’ forward Terry Ruskowski, who was a last minute replacement for the legendary Bobby Hull. The final consensus was that nobody was at all disappointed with the personable Ruskowski.
Following a welcome speech to the membership and several prospective members by West Kildonan-Maple Leaf Lodge No 2031  president - the very capable HYMIE ROSENBLATT, and a fine introduction by an always-involved community man, HOWARD KIDECKEL, the affair got underway.
Ruskowski, 23 at the time, was more than impressed with the likes of Gobuty, Shenkarow, and Secter. “They made me feel important as if I were the franchise,” he said.
Terry shared his hockey thoughts with the audience and none was more significant than when he pronounced: “I wish I’d gone to college for my hockey and I’d have an education to fall back on. Its going to catch up with me.”
In closing, he told members of the audience:” If you pass me by in the street and I don’t say ‘Hi’ stop and remind me that we once met and talked together at a B’nai Brith meeting. I’d like that and I mean it.”
Occasionally, Gobuty, the former president of the WHA, who now lives in Rancho Mirage, California and is married to Adrienne (Stall), drops a line to us at our publication and it’s always a welcome note. He is definitely still a Winnipegger at heart.
I recall that he, like any other zaida, sent me a note because he was so proud of his granddaughter Marisa Gobuty (son Marshall’s daughter), who was a rising basketball star at the time.
In the coincidence department I just happened to mention to a dear friend of mine that I was working on an article about Michael Gobuty and she remarked that her late father, Zigmond Shnitzler, used to work for his dad at Victoria Leather. She went on to elaborate that her dad thought very highly of Michael because he was a bright young man and that on cold days in the winter he would often pick up her dad and drive him to work.
Moreover, he showed respect to her dad. Small world, don’t you think?

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