CHICAGO – He still has a game to play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night before he can fully think about it, but 41-year old Teemu Selanne knows his return to Winnipeg on Saturday is fast approaching.
Selanne broke into the League as a rookie in 1992-93 for the old Winnipeg Jets franchise and scored a mind-boggling 76 goals to set the rookie scoring record. He played three-plus seasons for the Jets and still thinks fondly of the people he met – and played in front of – there.
“It’s going to be very special,” Selanne said. “Obviously I have great memories from Winnipeg. I’m so happy for them. Great memories from there. It’s been a long time since I played there last, but I’m very happy I started my career there and the people are unbelievable. Hockey is so big there. If you’re a hockey player, they really make you feel special about what you’re doing. Fun place to play.”
Not quite as fun for opposing players, however.
Former Jet and current Phoenix Coyote Shane Doan found that out the hard way. He made his return to Winnipeg’s MTS Centre earlier this season and got an ovation before the game started – followed by boos every time he touched the puck.
“I heard that,” Selanne said, laughing. “I think that’s pretty funny.”
What’s not funny to Selanne is the 9-16-5 record the Ducks have after 30 games. He didn’t commit to returning to play this season until much deliberation over the summer and it’s needless to say this wasn’t exactly what he envisioned when he opted to come back.
“I really didn’t sign for this, but at the same time I really think this is the challenge for our group … myself and the leaders and everybody … to find a way to turn this around,” Selanne said. “Obviously that’s something new in my career, but there’s no complaining. I’ve still enjoyed coming to the rink every day and that’s why I’m still here. It’s still fun.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has noticed that since taking over the team a couple of weeks ago and he’s found Selanne’s approach to be a lift.
“Teemu is everything you’d think he would be,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know him that well yet. What I do know is that he comes to the rink every day and plays hard, and he never has that down look – as if, ‘What am I doing here?’ I’ve never seen a guy at his age love hockey so much. We had the Christmas Party the other day and he was out there with the kids more than anybody and longer than anybody. He’s a refreshing hockey player.”