Lifelong fans travel south for Selanne
Celebration also a trip down memory lane
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/01/2015 (3068 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Evan Lavallee was there when Teemu Selanne set his first NHL record and Lavallee was there Sunday when Selanne recorded his last.
Selanne became the first player to have his number retired by the Anaheim Ducks when his No. 8 jersey rose to the rafters of the Honda Center rafters Sunday on “Teemu Tribute Night” against the visiting Winnipeg Jets, Selanne’s old team, with Lavallee and a community of Jets fans in the crowd.
Lavallee was just eight years old when he sat in the stands at the Winnipeg Arena on March 2, 1993, when Selanne broke Mike Bossy’s NHL’s rookie goal-scoring record en route to a record season of 76 goals as a rookie.
“I’ll never forget that night, that was my first NHL game ever when he threw his glove in the air and was shooting at it with his stick, and now I’ll never forget this one,” Lavallee said in a telephone interview from the Honda Center just before the official ceremony began to honour Selanne. He was referring to Selanne’s famous celebration of the record-setting goal.
“I had a connection to him as a kid, he’s just a classy guy and a good role model. For me, being at that game and now this one, it’s pretty special.”
Selanne played nearly four seasons in Winnipeg with the first version of the Jets. He won the Calder Trophy in 1993 as rookie of the year and was traded to Anaheim in February 1996. Selanne retired at the end of last season after a 22-year NHL career.
John Martynuk came to the game with his father, John Sr., to see Selanne’s number take its place in Anaheim hockey history.
“We’ve never been on a trip just the two of us, so we thought this was the one,” Martynuk, Jr. said in an interview via text message since it was too loud in the arena to hear a phone call. “He (Selanne) was my idol growing up. I must have watched his Boss video tape on VHS a million times.”
Martynuk was referring to the highlight video, The New Boss, of Selanne’s rookie 1992-1993 season with the Jets. It was only sold at the Winnipeg Arena in 1994 as a collector’s item.
Janice Labossiere said she and her husband, Barrett, take one hockey trip per season as a couple and this one will rank among the most memorable.
“There’s going to be a lot of tears. Even watching pre-game (warm-up) people are welling up,” she said. “There were big cheers going up when we were at the bar having lunch. There’s going to be a lot of tears and a lot of cheering. I’m hoping for a Jets win but for everyone here, we all have this special connection with this one player.”
Labossiere said she remembers being 12 years old and meeting Selanne at one of the former Jets’ fan events.
“I remember lining up at the Jets’ Wives’ Carnival to get an autograph in Teemu’s rookie year, it was him and (goalie) Bob Essensa. People were so excited and Teemu was just so quiet and super-polite,” she said. “There’s a lot of people here that look like they’re in their 30s and 40s, so it’s a bit of our youth that we’re having a few tears over as well.”
Labossiere said Selanne-autographed jerseys were everywhere; a testament to his fan-friendly nature.
“I’ve never seen this many autographed jerseys by one player in my life!” Janice Labossiere said. “All the different Ducks ones, some terrible, some less terrible. There’s lots of old Jets ones, some of them are 13s (Selanne’s old number with the Jets) with a ‘C’ and anybody who was a fan knows he was never the captain but, whatever. There’s a lot of Jets fans, but he was obviously very beloved here, too.”
Lavallee was in Anaheim with five friends for the big night, which they planned to do quite a while ago.
“We talked about this months ago and we booked it back in September,” he said. “It’s just a neat experience, seeing all the Winnipeg fans down here supporting Teemu Selanne. All the California fans have been very cordial to us, super-friendly and really respecting the fact that we’ve come down here for this.”