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Jets and Oilers alumni ready to step back in time

"I'm going to be nervous. I know that" - Eddie Olczyk

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Teemu Selanne has won a Stanley Cup, seen his number retired, and has represented his country of Finland numerous times.

But there's just something about the Winnipeg Jets logo that gets him everytime.

"It's one of those logos that every time I see it, it feels like home," Selanne said after this morning's Winnipeg Jets alumni practice.

"Just great memories from that jersey, and I'm always proud to put it on. It has a very special place in my heart for sure."

Those great memories include a 76-goal season in 1992-93, a season in which Selanne also won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Even with all these accomplishments, he was still thrilled to get the call to play for the Winnipeg Jets alumni team against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon.

"I know how much this means for the players and the city. Even before the practice, there are a lot of guys that I haven't met in 20 years but it's the same jokes," he said. "This is the thing you miss the most. The locker room, the guys, laughs, stories. You can't describe that."

Video: HERITAGE CLASSIC | Teemu Selanne

Dale Hawerchuk played nine seasons in a Jets sweater, amassing 929 total points in those seasons. He had the responsibility of putting the Jets roster together. Every player that could make it was thrilled to receive his call.

"I think for everybody it's a once in a lifetime event," said Hawerchuk. "That's the way the guys looked at it. Even if they weren't in great shape when they got the call, they thought, 'I have to trim a few pounds.

"It's special. It's once in a lifetime for the fans. This may be the last time you see these guys, and it's maybe the last time Gretzky plays an outdoor game right? Who knows. One of the greatest ever, and you get a chance to see him outdoors in Winnipeg."

Hockey fans in Winnipeg remember Wayne Gretzky. The former captain of the Edmonton Oilers was "public enemy number one" during the many seasons of playoff battles between the two teams in the late 1980s.

"That's the way it should be. I was on the other team," Gretzky laughed. "When I was in Winnipeg people were tremendous to me. They always treated me with respect. You have to cheer for your own team, and I respect that."

Video: HERITAGE CLASSIC | Eddie Olczyk

Though the fans may give Gretzky some that treatment for old times sake on Saturday afternoon, they may have a difficult time deciding whether to do the same with current Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Charlie Huddy.

Huddy has been in that role since the Jets returned in 2011, but wore Oilers colours from 1981-1991. He'll wear them once again in the alumni game.

"It's great to be able to do it right in the city I'm working in," Huddy said. "It's great for the fans. The fans have been real supportive over the last five years. It's well deserved for them. They'll be able to get out there and have some fun with the alumni game and then we get back to serious regular season game for us. It's a lot of fun."

The two alumni rosters put on their gear and practiced at MTS Centre in front of a lower-bowl filled with fans on Friday, and now, the anticipation is even greater for Saturday afternoon's puck drop.

For Eddie Olczyk, who was on the ice at the Winnipeg Arena in 1996 waving goodbye to the fans after an elimination from the postseason, he's glad to see NHL hockey thriving in the city he used to live in eleven months of the year.

"I became entrenched in the community. But to come back and see the sweater, and the name on the jersey, it just brings back a lot of great times here in the Peg," he said. "It's hard to believe that 20 years ago we were here and saying goodbye. I always knew Winnipeg was an NHL city. Unfortunately the economics didn't allow that for a long period of time.

"It's back, and it's back in a big way."

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