When the 2013-14 NHL schedule was released in July, many people in Winnipeg circled October 6, on the calendar. That was the day Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks would make their only appearance inside the MTS Centre. That October 6 is now in the past, Jets fans can now say farewell to a man and a player who loved the city like no other player in the history of the Winnipeg Jets, past or present.
While many players shunned the city of Winnipeg, Selanne embraced the Manitoba capital, even when the Jets version 1.0 packed their bags and left for Phoenix. Last night, was the fans chance to thank Selanne for providing great memories and much love to the city.
No one who was living in Winnipeg at the time, will ever forget the 1992-93 season. It was Selanne’s rookie season and it was a season for the ages. The Helsinki, Finland native was only 22 years old at the time, but he lit up the league like no one else before. In his rookie season, Selanne shattered the NHL record for goals and points by rookies in a season, recording an astounding 76 goals and 132 points. Winnipeg fell in love with the Finnish Flash, and that love endured throughout Selanne’s entire NHL career.
When the Jets announced they were leaving town during the 1995-96 season, Selanne wanted to stay with the franchise and say goodbye to the only North American city, he called home. Instead, the Jets shockingly traded Selanne to Anaheim, for Chad Kilger and Oleg Tvederdovsky on February 7, 1996. Selanne was heartbroken with the deal, as he wanted to stay in Winnipeg until the bitter end. However, general manager John Paddock decided that Selanne cost too much money, and that Keith Tkachuk would be the better choice in leading the franchise to the Stanley Cup. (That worked out as well as a 1974 Ford Pinto.)
Selanne continued his mastery over the NHL in Southern California, netting 51 goals in his first full season in Orange County. Remember, that was during the dead puck era, when goals were harder to come by than entrance into the Playboy Mansion. The following year, Selanne did one better, by tallying 52 goals. Yes, he was good. Really good! However, the Ducks struggled for consistency so in 2001, Selanne was dealt to the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline. Selanne’s numbers did go down in Silicon Valley but he was still a consistent goal scorer in the tight-checking NHL.
Selanne tested the free agent market following the 2002-03 season, and signed with the Colorado Avalanche. It turned out to be his most disappointing season of his illustrious career. Selanne played through a painful knee injury, recording only 16 goals and 16 assists in 78 games. When the lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, it gave Selanne a chance to get his knee surgically repaired and rehabilitated. He even took time to visit Winnipeg during the lockout, for the final game ever played at the old Winnipeg Arena.
When the NHL returned for the 2005-06 season, Selanne’s goal scoring ways did as well. Selanne returned for a second stint to Anaheim, and rewarded the Ducks faithful with a 40 goal, 50 assist campaign. The next season Selanne racked up 48 goals, while achieving team success as the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
On December 17, 2011 Selanne returned to Winnipeg as his Ducks faced the Jets for the first time since the franchise relocated from Atlanta. The crowd at the MTS Centre gave Selanne a standing ovation and cheered every time Selanne touched the puck. The Jets won the game 5-3 but Selanne received another standing ovation, after being named the game’s third star.
Which brings me back to Sunday night. Barring a playoff matchup, (don’t hold your breath on that happening) this will be Selanne’s last ever game in Winnipeg. The 15,004 in attendance at the MTS Centre knew that and gave Selanne a long, loud standing ovation, during a TV timeout in the first period. While the crowd did cheer Teemu Selanne whenever he touched the puck in the first period, the fans were more focused on the game as the Jets and Ducks were involved in a tight contest. Anaheim did prevail 3-2 which left the raucous crowd forlorn. Despite not getting a point, Selanne was named the game’s first star, giving the fans one last chance to say farewell to the player who never forgot Winnipeg. Even the Duck players, led by captain Ryan Getzlaff came onto the ice to tap their sticks and applaud the classy Finn. That is respect in the highest order.
Farewell Teemu. And thank you for giving us many memories over the years.
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