All in a Flash, a young man breaks free from his captors. The sound of a single shot is quickly drowned out by the deafening screams that surround him from every direction. A bright red light begins to flash, accompanied by the sound of a siren. The young man picks up a loose machine gun and fires into the air “bratatatatatatatat…!!!” This young man is not an enemy though, but a hero to the people. A hero named Teemu…
With less than ten days away before the much anticipated return of the Finnish Flash to Winnipeg, excitement is once again beginning to brew in the Manitoba capital. From time to time in professional sports, an athlete will return to the city to play or coach against the team in which he was once loved or once hated (sometimes both) by that respective teams fan base. Sometimes these returns are mired in uncertainty about what kind of reception the returning player will receive i.e. Mats Sundin’s return to the Air Canada Centre as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Other times, there is very little doubt in the minds of fans, media, and others around the league as to what kind of reception the returning player will receive i.e. Dany Heatley’s not-so-glorious return to Ottawa. In the case of Teemu Selanne’s forecasted return to Winnipeg on Dec. 17, it will most likely be the latter in the sense that there is very little uncertainty as to what will occur next Saturday night.
The question is not “Will he be cheered?”, but rather “How high is the decibel level going to be?” It is more than safe to assume that Selanne will return to the city where he started his National Hockey League career to raucous applause and a lengthy standing ovation. Part of what makes this particular return so special, is that it has been fifteen years in the making. Most of us who have followed the Jets and the career of Teemu Selanne were almost certain that this was never going to happen. As is often the case though, the Hockey gods had other plans in mind.
For some perspective – Selanne began his career in Winnipeg at a time when using antivirus software was still a few years in the future. He played there only three and a half seasons (1992-’96), but nevertheless it was highly productive. In 231 games played (keeping in mind the 1994-’95 season was cut short due to the work stoppage) Selanne racked up 147 Goals, and 159 Assists, for a total of 306 points (a ratio of roughly 1.32 points per game over that time span).
Selanne provided us with more than a few memorable moments playing in Winnipeg. Every time he touched the puck there was a chance something magical could happen, and it usually did. One noteworthy moment of mention was his playoff hat trick against Vancouver in game three of the 1993 Smythe Division semi-finals. Selanne’s third goal of the game was also the game winner.
However, it is another hat trick that Teemu Selanne is remembered for most. For hockey fans everywhere, especially Jets fans, we keep travelling back in our minds to one particular moment. A moment in time so special, that all the attention of the hockey world was focused on a young twenty-two year old kid from Finland who had landed in Winnipeg that year. As soon as this Jet landed, he took off again… scoring goals at an incredible pace. In March of 1993 in a game against the Quebec Nordiques at the Winnipeg Arena, Selanne recorded his most memorable feat as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. On that night Selanne’s three goals tied and beat legendary New York Islander Mike Bossy’s record set for goals scored by a rookie in a single season (54). In addition to this, the legendary record breaking goal (assisted on by Tie Domi) also set a new Winnipeg Jets club record, previously held by Dale Hawerchuck. The record breaking moment was such a great achievement that the entire Jets team jumped on the ice and mobbed Selanne. Camera men followed and they halted play to hold a special in-game presentation (which is extremely rare in the NHL) where Selanne was presented with a gold plated stick to commemorate the achievement.
Selanne “Finnished” off that year setting the new record for rookie goal scoring at 76, to go along with his 56 assists that year for a whopping 132 points. This record still stands and will most likely never ever be broken. Selanne was a lock that year for the Calder Trophy awarded to the NHL rookie of the year. Since he was traded from Winnipeg in 1996 Selanne, has achieved loads of on ice success. Some notable accomplishments include three Bronze medals (two Olympic 1998, 2010, one World Championship 2008) and two silver medals (Olympics 2006, World Championships 1999). He holds almost every Anaheim Ducks record outside of goaltending and penalty minutes. Most notably though, in 2007 as a member of the Ducks, Selanne finally sipped from Lord Stanley’s Mug for the first time in his fifteenth season in the league. After all those accomplishments, Jets fans will never forget that record breaking night in 1993, just as I’m sure Teemu Selanne will never forget his return to Winnipeg next Saturday. With all that being said, there will no doubt be some very young hockey fan of the new age Jets asking the question “Dad, who’s Teemu Selanne?”