With the announcement set for today that the Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg (broken here last Friday), one of the issues is what will the team be called.
The Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996. Thereafter, the WINNIPEG JETS trademarks were transferred (or assigned - same thing) to the NHL. This was done to ensure that the marks did not go abandoned. As well, there was still tremendous value in the marks, and that needed to be protected - even if the team was no more.
Some have suggested that because the NHL owns the marks, the Winnipeg franchise can't get them back. That's not accurate - they can. Just see the NHL as a custodian of the marks.
The issue at this point is not whether the owners can get permission to use the JETS trademarks. Rather, it's whether they want the name. It's a branding decision now.
Does ownership call the team the JETS, or if do they migrate to a new name?
Favouring keeping the JETS name is being able to leverage the existing goodwill associated with the name. It's recognizable. On the flip side, ownership may want to wipe the slate clean and rebrand. As well, by rebranding, the owners would be able to sell far more merchandise. The alternative is to keep the JETS name, but change the logo so fans would buy merchandise.
Apart from the JETS issue, there is also the WINNIPEG issue. Does ownership drop the city name and replace it with MANITOBA to suggest a broader reach? My guess is that may be the case (perhaps if they want to pull in U.S. fans, they could rebrand as the North Dakota Jets or the Los Angeles Jets of Anaheim).
So the branding strategy is multi-layered and is something ownership has likely already considered quite carefully.
There may not be a wrong decision in the eyes of ownership as much as a better decision.