September 27, 2011
Selanne can't wait to play in WinnipegHas Dec. 17 game against Jets circled on his calendar
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Teemu Selanne may be one of the NHL’s senior citizens, but he remembers exactly one of the first things he did on June 23.
“Right away when the NHL schedule came out, I checked out the date, when we’re going to Winnipeg,” the 41-year-old Anaheim Ducks star said. “It’s in my calendar. I’m excited.”
Saturday, Dec. 17 figures to be one of the more memorable nights in the inaugural season of the new Winnipeg Jets, as Selanne makes his first and only appearance of the season, and first as a player since he was traded midway through the final season of the original Jets.
Even though he played just two-and-a-half seasons here, Selanne remains one of the most popular Jets of all time, based mostly on his record-setting, 76-goal campaign as a rookie in 1992-93.
The Finnish Flash acknowledges he had a few flashbacks when news broke the NHL was returning.
“I was so happy. I have great memories from there and I know how much hockey means to the people. I was very thrilled. I know how much they’ve been wishing it.
“I’ve talked to a lot of my buddies that still live there. They’re extremely excited they finally got the team back. They’re pumped. It’s awesome. The people are so nice and friendly there. They really deserve the hockey franchise there.”
Selanne almost didn’t get the chance to return as a player.
More than once over the last several years he’s flirted with retirement, most recently this off-season, after surgery on his left knee.
But with a clean bill of health, one of the NHL’s most prolific and enduring goal scorers is back for a 19th season.
Drafted 10th overall by the original Jets in 1988, Selanne is coming off a 31-goal, 80-point campaign — the 10th time he’s scored at least 30.
He never did get a proper sendoff as a Jet, as the Ducks didn’t play in Winnipeg during the second half of that final, fateful season.
Dec. 17 could mark the loudest ovation a visiting player has ever received, here, when No. 8 steps onto the ice.
“Obviously they don’t have the old Winnipeg Arena, so it’s going to be a little bit different,” Selanne said. “But it’s a very special place for me. So I’m really looking forward to going there.”
The Winnipeg trip won’t be the only time Selanne is the most popular visiting player, this season.
The Ducks open the season in his home town of Helsinki, Finland, Oct. 7.