It has been nearly 16 years since Teemu Selanne
last showed up in Winnipeg for an NHL game.
But Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks
will play the Winnipeg Jets
tonight at the MTS Centre in Selanne's first game back in Manitoba since Feb. 4, 1996.
Three days after that 1996 game, the original Winnipeg Jets
shipped Selanne in a four-player trade to Anaheim, where he has since built a life with his family and further established himself as one of the all-time NHL greats. Selanne has recorded 900 points with Anaheim since the deal, while also making stops in San Jose and Colorado before returning to Southern California, and is the Ducks' all-time leading scorer.
Now Selanne is back in Winnipeg, and the Ducks made Selanne available to the media Saturday morning at a downtown hotel. The event allowed Selanne to venture back nearly 20 years to his days with the Jets.
"This is not an everyday routine," Selanne said of the media spectacle. "It's easier when you have routines. But that's not a big deal."
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Winnipeg is where Selanne got his start, a place where he arrived as an NHL rookie and delivered a 76-goal season with the Jets in 1992-93. Selanne's work that year set a new mark for goals by a rookie, breaking Mike Bossy
's old record by 23 goals. His 132 points were also a rookie record.
"I'm so lucky that I played here," Selanne told the assembled media that filled a hotel ballroom. "I still feel that the fans here have supported me for all of my career. I appreciate the support. I remember when it was minus-40 and those fans [would be] waiting for a couple of hours after the game to see a little bit of you."
Selanne spent parts of four seasons with the original Jets and finished with 147 goals and 306 points before his trade to Anaheim. The deal stunned Selanne and Jets fans already battling the emotions swirling around the club's impending move to Phoenix.
"It hurts," Selanne said, "especially the first trade as a player. That's shocking."
Selanne admitted he was glad that he is not playing the original incarnation of the Jets. With no direct ties to the Selanne-era team, the modern-day Jets offer Selanne some needed emotional distance.
"That would be even more weird and hard to play," Selanne said of what he would have felt had he been facing the original Jets tonight.
Selanne is looking forward to playing in the MTS Centre, and his family joining him in Winnipeg for the game.
"I have heard that the atmosphere in the building is unbelievable," he said. "I have heard that the building is rocking, so that's going to be fun."
Selanne's children spent three hours Friday playing hockey on an outdoor Winnipeg rink, and he is glad that his family will be part of another hockey memory in his storied career.
"They have seen Daddy's life pretty closely," Selanne said. "This is going to be a great experience for them, too."