One week after hiring a new head coach, the Tulsa Oilers announced an affiliation agreement with the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League. This is the first time since the 2010-11 season that the Oilers will have a direct affiliation with an NHL team. That season, the Oilers were affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche and Lake Erie Monsters.
After six seasons as the Oilers head coach, Bruce Ramsey left the team in June to take an assistant coach position with the American Hockey League team in Grand Rapids.
Two weeks ago, the Oilers named Jason Christie, 46, as the team’s 11th head coach in team history. Christie spent the past four seasons as the head coach of the Ontario Reign, where he recorded 43 or more wins and qualified for the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs in each season. He led Ontario to three consecutive Pacific Division titles and last season, Christie guided the Reign to a 43-19-10 regular season record and a berth in the Western Conference Finals.
“I’m honored to have this opportunity to coach in a place that has a hockey tradition like Tulsa,” Christie said. “It feels great to be back in the middle of the country and to be part of an organization that is so well supported by the ownership and the fans. I’m looking forward to getting started on putting a great team on the ice.”
“Jason’s track record in our league is difficult to match,” said Oilers’ General Manager Taylor Hall. “He has proven that he knows what it takes to succeed at this level and I’m confident that he will get the very most out of our players to help this organization achieve a new level of success. Our fans are going to be extremely proud of the team Jason puts on the ice and his commitment to winning.”
Christie has been a head coach for 13 seasons in the ECHL and CHL, with a career coaching record of 520-304-105 (.616 winning per.) and has led his teams to a total of 11 postseason appearances. With 483 victories in the ECHL, Christie ranks second on the league’s all-time coaching wins list and needs just nine wins to break the record held by John Marks.
“I want to make sure our team in Tulsa has consistent effort every single game,” Christie said. “Our fans need to see a hard-working team on the ice and players who are family oriented and willing to step out of their comfort zone to make the necessary sacrifices to win.”
Prior to his time in Ontario, Christie earned the Central Hockey League’s Coach of the Year award in the 2010-11 season for pushing the Bloomington Prairie Thunder to 37 wins and the franchise’s first playoff berth.
Christie played 572 games over a 10-year career with eight teams in the AHL, ECHL, IHL, and in England.
OILERS JOIN JETS
On Friday, the Tulsa Oilers announced an affiliation agreement with the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL and the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, for the upcoming season.
“We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with the Jets and the Moose,” said Hall. “Both teams are first-class organizations that share our commitment to winning and not only is this an exciting day for our fans, but it is also an important day for our players who want to continue their development and succeed at the next level.”
“We are pleased to embark on our new partnership with the Tulsa Oilers,” said Craig Heisinger, senior vice president and director of hockey operations/assistant general manager of the Winnipeg Jets. “Tulsa is an organization that shares our level of commitment to success and we look forward to working together to provide our players’ opportunities to further develop themselves on and off the ice. We are particularly excited to continue our relationship with Head Coach Jason Christie who has been an integral component of some of our prospect development in the past.”
Christie has strong ties to the new parent club and was instrumental in forging the relationship between the three franchises. Over the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, Christie played 88 games with Manitoba. He was an Assistant Coach with the Chicago Wolves from 2008 to 2010 under current Jets’ General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and most recently, Christie’s team in Ontario was the Jets’ ECHL affiliate for the 2013-14 campaign.
“Being on board with the Jets and the Moose brings Tulsa to a new level as far as player development,” Christie stated. “It’s always exciting to see guys move up to the next level and to help them get there.”
The Oilers actually have a bit of history with the old Winnipeg Jets team (that franchise moved to Arizona in 1996). From 1979-1982, Tulsa served as Winnipeg’s primary affiliate and during that time, more than 20 players were called up from the Oilers to the Jets.
Hopefully this will be an affiliation that the Oilers will keep for a long time so that we can actually see it pay off with players moving up to the NHL. Then we can all say, “I remember him from when he played in Tulsa.”
After all, that’s the true definition of a minor league system with major league affiliations.