Selanne looks forward to seeing Jets' fans
KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
Teemu Selanne is looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere at MTS Centre on Saturday when he makes his triumphant return to Winnipeg.
"I heard that the atmosphere in the building is unbelievable, and that's pretty much the only thing I'm really looking forward to see and feel," the Anaheim Ducks winger said. "But we are here only one day, so I don't really have time to go any place.
"I still have a lot of friends I would like to see, but there's no time for that this time. So I'll just try to enjoy this short visit, but I heard the building is rocking, so that's going to be fun."
Selanne met with a large gathering of media for 15 minutes on Saturday morning at the Fairmont, which included several reporters from his native Finland. Selanne spent only four years with the original Winnipeg Jets in the 1990s, but no athlete is more revered in the Manitoba capital than the Finnish Flash.
The Ducks will take on the Jets on Saturday night at MTS Centre in Selanne‚s first game in Winnipeg since February 1996, when he was traded to Anaheim.
"This is something special," Selanne said, looking relaxed in a Fairmont ballroom. "This city and the people here, I feel that they have been supporting me these 20 years. That's why it is so special for me. Too bad we're here only one day, but it's better than nothing. I'm very excited to be here.‰
According to one of the reporters in attendance, a group of fans greeted Selanne outside the Fairmont at 2:40 a.m. on Saturday after the Ducks arrived from Chicago, chanting his name as he got off the bus.
"Those are die-hard hockey fans, and it was amazing to see them there," Selanne said. "It's a very special place. It's still a small city and the people are so friendly, and you almost feel that you're one of them. The way the people make you feel here, it's so special."
Selanne, who scored an NHL record 76 goals as a rookie for the Jets during the 1992-93 season, admitted his return will be a little different, considering it's not the original Jets and the arena is new.
"I don't really know what to expect," he said. "If there still would be the old Winnipeg Arena and the same jerseys from 15, 16 years ago, that would be a different story. But still I'm very excited. Obviously the people and the fans, that's why I'm so excited. I've always had a very special relationship with the fans here, and pretty much everywhere I have played. That's going to make the excitement tonight."
Selanne's family made the trip to Winnipeg from Anaheim, and they immediately hit an outdoor rink after arriving on Friday.
"They are really enjoying this time here, and I think it's going to be a great experience for them tonight, too," he said.
There isn't enough time for Selanne to make his trip to Winnipeg a social visit, so he'll simply have to get reacquainted with 15,004 of his closest friends at MTS Centre.
"Too bad we don't stay here after the game and party a little bit, but we can do that some other time," he said. "There's going to be a lot of familiar faces in the building, and that's what's going to make this special."