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This article was published 21/10/2016 (1388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Teemu Selanne is undoubtedly Winnipeg’s favourite all-time Finn, but he appears to have a serious challenger for the crown.
Whether 18-year-old Patrik Laine, the rookie forward of the Winnipeg Jets, lives up to the Selanne legend remains to be seen, but the 46-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer said Friday he’s all too happy to pass the torch to the budding superstar.
"We’re all excited about how he plays and for me, it’s so special," said Selanne, who received a key to the city from Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman at a post-practice ceremony at the MTS Centre Friday afternoon.
"Because I went through all the great moments here and now he’s starting his own journey... When Winnipeg drafted him, I was so pumped and I knew he’s gonna be happy here... He’s only 18 years old, so he’s gonna get even better. So watch out. It’s gonna be fun for him and the city."
Selanne, who will suit up for the Jets squad at today’s Alumni Classic at Investors Group Field, had no hesitation when he was asked who was the better player at that age.
"Him, I think," he said. "I came here as an 18-year-old at training camp and I was in the army at that time. Only if I would get that right-winger spot with (Dale) Hawerchuk’s line I would maybe do some damage, too. But I don’t think at 18 I was that ready."
Selanne returned to the Jets in 1992-93 and proceeded to rewrite the NHL record book, quickly winning over local hockey fans in the process.
"Teemu, I’m sure you know, captured Winnipeggers hearts in 1992 when he exploded into the NHL with the greatest rookie season ever, scoring a whopping 76 goals and 132 points in 84 games," said Bowman. "In doing so, he obliterated Mike Bossy’s rookie goal-scoring record by 26 goals...
"And what makes it all that much more special, is Teemu was and is as great a person as he is a hockey player. And that really says something. He’s known for his light-hearted personality, his respectful demeanour and (he’s) a true hockey hero that everyone can and does get behind. He always made time for fans, for autographs and charities and really is a true ambassador for the game of hockey."
Selanne appreciated the symbolism of Friday’s honour.
"I was here almost four years and it was a great time," he said. "The relationship with the fans and myself was really special. How the city and the fans lived the whole journey with me was unbelievable. I always said that — this is friendly Manitoba for a reason. The people are just outstanding here.
"Obviously, it was tough to see the team leaving to Phoenix because I knew how much hockey teams mean to the city and the people. The day I heard it was coming back, that Atlanta was moving here, I was really happy because this city and fans really deserve it."
Selanne responded to a number of questions from the media.
Here’s a sampling of his responses:
Some rookie-season advice for Laine
"Don’t read the (news)papers. Don’t believe when they tell you how great you are... especially the Canadian media, they make you a little bit bigger than you really are. He’s a good kid... I’m proud of him."
How many goals
will Laine score?
"When you have a great player, he’s going to have a lot of ice time and first power play, opportunity to play with good players and then good things happen. That’s how you create the confidence. That’s how you can do your things normally. If you remain focused and you get the ice time, now he can focus on the things he does well."
on the longtime
"Luckily, I was not here when (the Oilers) were dominating. When I came into the league, I think (against them) we won more than we lost, so that was something good. But in the ’80s, you look at that lineup and it’s probably like 60 Stanley Cups or something like that. That’s the reason we don’t have so many Stanley Cups, because of those guys."
Will he shoot the glove down?
(... Should he score in today’s alumni game) "I think that was a one-time deal. It’s good to remember it like that."
Selanne on ice
"I was skating two months ago in a charity game, but that’s the only one in two years. I really haven’t missed skating much. There’s a new chapter in my life now. But it felt like I never skated before (laughing) and I know there’s a lot of guys like that, too, who feel the same way. It was fun. I would play more but in Anaheim there’s not enough ice or you have to skate at midnight and that’s not for me."
"Oh yeah. That year I didn’t realize what I did, you know. It took a couple of years to realize it. It won’t happen very often. But I was lucky. When I came over I was right away on the first line, the power play, I played with the best players. All the stars were aligned my way. Obviously, I was hungry, I was playing well, too, and I was healthy. But still, you never know. That’s why the memories are so nice."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @sawa14
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Friday, October 21, 2016 at 4:43 PM CDT: Photos reordered
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