Teemu Selanne is one of Winnipeg’s hockey royalty and the red carpet will be rolled out for the Finnish Flash when his Anaheim Ducks arrive in town for Sunday’s match-up with the Jets.
But even though the 43-year-old Selanne has indicated this will be his final season before retirement, fellow Finn Olli Jokinen isn’t quite convinced his second return to the place where his storied NHL career began will be the last.
"I’ll believe it when I see it that he’s done," said Jokinen with a grin after Jets’ practice Saturday. "He’s been saying this for seven-eight years now that it’s going to be his last season.
"He’s the type of guy that loves the game and is still able to play at a high level so why not keep playing?"
Selanne isn’t expected to be in the lineup tonight in Minnesota when the Ducks face the Wild as head coach Bruce Boudreau is attempting to pace his star during the course of the 82-game season. But he will play against the Jets and if the night is even half as electric as his first visit back in the fall of 2011, then it will be special.
"I wasn’t here for that, but that’s what Teemu’s wife was saying," said Jokinen. "Sirpa (Selanne’s wife) was here as well with the kids and it was good for his kids to actually see where he started playing and how much the people here really love him.
"But like I said, this could be the last regular-season game, but there’s a possibility we’ll see him in the playoffs. And," added Jokinen with a smirk, "there’s a possibility he could still play five more years."
The Jets will attempt to push their record to 3-0 to open the season against the Ducks while, at the same time, soak up some of the atmosphere that comes with Selanne’s return.
"It's kind of cool. He's one of those guys that I watched when I was really young and he's still in the league and still a pretty good player," said Bryan Little. "It's always fun playing against guys you looked up to and you watched as a kid. It should be fun and I'm sure the fans are going to make him feel at home out there, too."
"He's been such a dominant player and had such an impact here in Winnipeg... he's a guy that has made a big contribution to not only the NHL, but the NHL here in Winnipeg," added head coach Claude Noel "His numbers both internationally and in the National Hockey League speak volumes for the player. This is a guy that performs. You watch him play at his age... it's just a marvel. For me it's always been a pleasure to watch him play but even to continue to play at this level like he does is something else.
"I just hope we win the game as we marvel."
Of note at Jets practice, defenceman Grant Clitsome was back on the ice but Toby Enstrom was absent. Noel said Enstrom missed the workout because of maintenance and listed him as day-to-day but expected he’d play on Sunday. Clitsome, Noel said, will be evaluated again Sunday and "may be a player as well."