WINNIPEG -- Beloved in Winnipeg since he scored an NHL rookie-record 76 goals for the Jets in the 1992-93 season, Teemu Selanne was given a key to the city during a ceremony at MTS Centre on Friday.
Selanne, back in town for the 2016 Rogers NHL Heritage Classic Alumni Game on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports), said he will never forget how welcome he felt in Winnipeg during his playing days.
"Winnipeg has always been a special place for me," he said. "I remember I came here for the first time in 1988 as a young 18-year-old. Then I went back to Finland for military service and I came back in 1992. I always remember how open the arms were in Winnipeg and with the fans. I didn't know what to expect at that time, or how much time I'd need to get used to a new language and a new city and teammates and a different style of hockey.
"But pretty fast I realized I could do well here."
Selanne, 46, will be on the ice at Investors Group Field on Saturday, playing for the Jets alumni against former players from the Edmonton Oilers.
His 76-goal rookie season and the nearly four years he spent playing for the Jets were an important part of his life, he said.
Video: Teemu Selanne speaks with the media
"The way the fans, all the people lived that journey with me the first year, was unbelievable," Selanne said. "The whole city was behind that journey and it was hard to believe how excited the people were. Didn't matter where I went. They made me feel so special.
"They helped me so much all those years I played here."
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who presented Selanne with the key to the city, praised him as a great ambassador for the city and the game.
"What makes it all that much more special is that Teemu was and is as great a person as he was a hockey player," Bowman said. "That really says something.
"He always made time for fans, for autographs, for charities and really is a true ambassador for the game of hockey that we all love."
Part of Selanne's legend in Winnipeg is that he played street hockey with his neighbors and their kids during his tenure with the Jets.
"Teemu is part of hockey folklore that really binds us as Winnipeggers and as patriots of hockey," Bowman said. "Winnipeggers really opened up their hearts to Teemu when he moved here and he embraced the city right back."