WINNIPEG — It was only a minority of the time in his career, but Teemu Selanne and Winnipeg still go together like puck in net.
Selanne returns to the Manitoba capital on Saturday to play for the first time in almost 16 years -- since he was traded in February 1996. The Anaheim Ducks meet the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on Saturday.
"That was my first NHL team," Selanne told reporters on a conference call this afternoon. "Starting there, I’ve always said the hockey was such a big thing. The fans and the whole city makes the players feel so special.
"It was just a dream come true to start a career in Canada. Obviously all the memories I have there, it’s just so, so awesome."
During his first season, 1992-93, in Winnipeg, Selanne shattered the NHL rookie record for goals, 76, and points, 132.
He won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year by polling 50 out of 50 first-place votes. A unanimous selection for any NHL award is nearly unheard of.
Selanne played for the Jets until 1996, when on Feb. 4, he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks, along with Marc Chouinard and a fourth-round pick, for long-forgotten pieces Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round pick.
Selanne, now 41, is in his 19th NHL season. He is Anaheim’s career leader in games (803), goals (419), assists (481) and points (900).
Selanne also revealed today that the new Winnipeg Jets inquired about his services as a free agent during the summer.
"Winnipeg called my agent and asked if they could even make an offer," Selanne said today. "But I told Don Baizley, my agent, earlier that the biggest question for me (then) was if I can play, not where I can play."
Selanne was contemplating retirement and did not make up his mind to return to the NHL until late in the summer.
"I have been so long here (Anaheim) and have been so happy with this franchise and this team, there’s no way I could leave anymore," he said. ""I was very honoured that they called but it’s too late to move."