Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 12/17/11 at 06:54 PM ET
In a season already in turmoil - it was, after all, already known that the Jets would be moving - February 7, 1996 was one of the darker days of the original Winnipeg Jets. It was on that day that Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round pick came to town from Anaheim in exchange for Marc Chouinard and the much-adored Finnish Flash - Teemu Selanne.
One of only three active players from the original Winnipeg Jets roster - the others being Shane Doan and Nikolai Khabibulin - Selanne is easily the most beloved player to ever don a Jets jersey (either version of the franchise). Dale Hawerchuk was one of my childhood heroes, and is probably my favourite player to have played for the original Jets, but Teemu is my favourite person to have played for the team. It just so happened he was also a freaking awesome hockey player.
It’s hard not to love him, especially if you’re from Winnipeg - Selanne played some incredible hockey here, has always spoken fondly of the city, and all accounts of people having met him in those four years with the Winnipeg Jets v1.0 were that he was as gracious and personable a guy as you’d ever meet. His popularity goes beyond the cities in which he has played - Winnipeg, Anaheim, San Jose and Denver - he’s truly one of the most universally loved hockey players in the game today (and maybe ever).
What he means to Winnipeg is I think in part tied up in fifteen years of feeling like we had been abandoned by the NHL - that we weren’t good enough for the league - but that somebody out there still loved us. It sounds naive, self-conscious and maybe a bit goofy, but that’s where the city was at the time. When the Jets left town, we lost something important. It was probably a blessing that Selanne was traded before the Jets fizzled out in that last season - he didn’t have to go down with the ship. He was gone so quickly that nobody really had a chance to say goodbye and thank you. That will change tonight.
As far as rookie stats go, it’s hard to imagine his record for most goals in a season (76) will be matched or broken for a long time. So many years later, he still seems to have so much game left - he leads the Anaheim Ducks in assists (21) and points (31 in as many games) this year, and is the all-time franchise leader in points. And he’s 41 freaking years old.
Who knows what we’ll get from the Finnish Flash tonight - he arrived early this morning (and was greeted by a few fans, for whom he graciously signed autographs), then had a late morning press conference that nearly rivalled the spectacle leading up to the Jets’ home opener against the Habs. He also has his family in tow as well, so his game day routine has been totally decimated.
It doesn’t matter whether he scores a goal, whether the Jets win or lose - people are going to go ballistic at the MTS Centre when Teemu Selanne returns to the ice here in Winnipeg. There’s so much emotion attached to Selanne’s return - there’ll surely be tears in the building, as well as more than a few misty-eyed dudes raising glasses to the Finnish Flash from a barstool, a living room couch, and beyond. This writer included.
*Thanks to the Anaheim Ducks media relations people for additional info/stats.
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About Benny and the Jets
Fifteen years ago, Ben's beloved Winnipeg Jets left town. He begrudgingly turned to the Montreal Canadiens for comfort and found none, and is now struggling to find a place in his heart for the Winnipeg Jets v2.0.
Ben is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer that writes a lot about wine and beer. Expect his son to be drafted into the NHL in 2025.