Forget social media, Joe Daley urges Jets

Former Winnipeg Jets netminder Joe Daley knows a little something about winning.

In seven seasons with the Jets during the 1970s, Daley recorded 167 wins, the most by a goalie in WHA league history, and he won three AVCO Cups with his hometown club.

Those glory days stand in stark contrast to the current team whose wins haven't come easily. The Jets are sitting at 7-8-1 and have a home record below .500.

Daley knows the pressure that comes with performing every night, but things are much different now. Social media didn’t capture every moment. Public perception rarely seeped into the dressing room and players knew not to cross the line.

Daley believes the absence of such distractions made way for his team's successes.

"I played with guys back in the day who didn't even read the newspaper," said Daley, 70, whose career included stints in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings.

"They didn't want to know what the beat writer was saying about them or about the team either at home or on the road."

That's not the case for the current version of the Winnipeg Jets. Last week, Jets winger Blake Wheeler told reporters following a practice the team was "bogged down from all the negativity" portrayed by the media.

Daley believes the onus is on the players to prevent themselves from seeking out bad press.

“If you're looking for things that people are saying about you, you're going to find them," Daley said. "When you're an athlete I think you have to focus on what's important and that's the fact that you are a player, you are a teammate. The less that people pay attention to what is being said about them the better off they are."

Daley said the team didn't receive the same kind of flak from reporters and fans but recalled what it felt like to get criticized after the Jets failed to make the playoffs during the 1974-1975 season.

"Nobody likes criticism, whether it's warranted or not. It's just a fact of life," Daley said.

"Every athlete knows in his own mind when he hasn't performed and we don't need someone else to reassure us. It comes from management, it comes from coaches, and sometimes it even comes from another teammate, but when you're more worried about what the general public thinks about you I think you're getting off track."

However, social media sites make it hard for players to hide from criticism. It's all around them, something Daley is glad wasn't around during his career.

"In my day, other than getting booed or yelled at at the rink, you didn’t know much about what people thought of you because they would never confront you face to face," he recalled.

"Nowadays you got players on FaceBook and Twitter, stuff we weren’t familiar with.”

The same can’t be said for young Jets forward Evander Kane. During the recent NHL lockout, Kane, 21, was blasted for a picture he posted to Twitter of him in Las Vegas posing with stacks of money held to his ears.

The stunt didn’t sit well with the public.

Even without social media, Daley said, that type of action wouldn’t fly in his era.

“You wouldn’t get a young player — a rookie or somebody who hadn’t been around for a long time — stepping out of line because veteran players had their way of dealing with it,” he said. “In the NHL, as a young guy, we always said that rookies or young players were seen and not heard.

"You sat around and kept your ears open and your mouth closed. When it comes to the dressing room or off the ice you wanted to be one of the guys and you kept your nose clean."

Daley credits the Jets three WHA championships to the team's strong bonds.

“It’s knowing what you have in the dressing room," he said. "It’s knowing the ability of your team and playing for each other. It’s wanting to succeed and not being worried about individual things.”

Daley said he's seen signs of this from the Jets of late, referring to Tuesday’s game against Buffalo where despite giving up a late goal in the second period, the Jets battled hard in the third to secure the win.

“The fans just want … a solid effort night in and night out," he said.

A little effort could be the difference for a Jets team that has lost five games by a margin of one goal, Daley said.

“I look at those games and say if you can lose 2-1, you can win 2-1. That’s what we’re going to have to expect as fans this year are watching that team mature to the point where when we're in those 2-1 games, we’re going to have the two, not the one."

The Jets head in to Saturday’s game against Philadelphia on a high note. They’ve strung together a two-game winning streak — three straight on the road — and it appears, if only for a moment, things are beginning to take shape.

“For athletes it’s all about winning, and at the end of the day everyone remembers the winner — and that’s what you want to be,” Daley said.

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