The chance to give Teemu Selanne another moment in the prairie sun took precedence over the hockey game back in 2011, but on this night, likely the last time Winnipeg would get to see its prodigal hockey prince, victory was more important than fealty.
It was kind of like the second time a kid comes home from college and finds his bedroom turned into a den and his high-school sweetie dating (what used to be) his best friend.
The first trip home, nothing had changed and mom did his laundry and cooked his favourites. The second? Good to see you, here's money for pizza. Mom has bingo tonight.
'It was kinda cool when he came back two years ago. But that means absolutely nothing to me now'
Two points has become more important than nostalgia as the Winnipeg Jets strive to grow from a cute story to a serious franchise.
And when the Jets failed to deliver on their end Sunday night, they got a sharp reminder from their fans that now more is expected. A clumsy effort in the final minute had the fans booing the home side. They were clear on what they wanted. No sentimentality. A win and nothing else.
The crowd is growing demanding. They expect the Jets to keep pace.
Certainly, Selanne received a warm hello, but there was none of the cloying nostalgia from the first time around. This was different. Kind of like, "Hey Teemu. Great to see you. Thanks for everything. Now we've got some business to take care of and it might sting a little."
The love-in wasn't the story.
Everyone was glad to see Selanne and no one will ever forget the magic his skates, stick and smile once created here. But, Evander Kane, who just happens to now be the man Jets fans currently love to love the most, summed up the relevance of the moment in respectful but direct fashion prior to the game.
"I'm not trying to be mean, but me, personally, I couldn't care less about that now to be honest," said Kane. "It was kinda cool when he came back two years ago. But that means absolutely nothing to me now. It's about us winning the hockey game and playing well and getting the two points."
Kane played like he meant what he said. A number of his teammates didn't get the message.
Selanne himself could feel the change in temperature prior to the game.
"I had a chance to come two years ago and that was unbelievable," he said Sunday morning. "I don't really expect anything like that again, but it's fun to be here. I almost hoped I wouldn't have to come back here, because that was an absolutely perfect night. We lost, but it was something I was always going to remember."
The fans gave him a roar during the anthem when his face appeared on the scoreboard and then another midway through the first when the Jets paid him tribute with a quick announcement. Thirty seconds of standing ovation and then back to business. When he was named first star, he gave a nice little twirl and a half-full house threw down some love. Then it was back to grousing about the way the Jets had played.
Mark Chipman didn't bring this franchise back to Winnipeg to live in the memories of Jets 1.0. He wants new ones.
Cute is fine but it gets old. Contending and putting fear into opponents on a consistent basis is far more rewarding and lasting.
Teemu Selanne will wake up in California this morning. The Jets will rise to a 2-1 record.
Nostalgia doesn't pay the bills. The here and now does.
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