There are a lot of days to mark on the calendar in the NHL's return-to-Winnipeg season and Saturday's return of Teemu Selanne is surely among the most prominent.

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This article was published 13/12/2011 (3576 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There are a lot of days to mark on the calendar in the NHL's return-to-Winnipeg season and Saturday's return of Teemu Selanne is surely among the most prominent.

The Finnish Flash spent less than four of his 19 NHL seasons playing in Winnipeg, but Selanne and Jets still go together like puck in net.

After lighting it up in his youth with the Jets, Teemu Selanne has gone on to a long and productive career with the Ducks.

MARK J. TERRILL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

After lighting it up in his youth with the Jets, Teemu Selanne has gone on to a long and productive career with the Ducks.

 

"That was my first NHL team," Selanne told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. His busy week is about to begin with a game against Phoenix tonight but his appearance with the Anaheim Ducks at the MTS Centre Saturday night has been on his mind for some time. "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."

Selanne began his NHL career by smashing Mike Bossy's rookie record for goals and points. He made the new, still-standing marks 76 goals and 132 points.

At the end of that season, he won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year in a rare unanimous ballot, polling 50 out of 50 first-place votes.

"When we knew the (2011-12) schedule, I marked the date in my calendar," Selanne said. "Obviously I knew it's going to be very special to have a chance to come back there and play."

What awaits him Saturday is the topic for some discussion.

Will he be afforded a hero's welcome?

Or will the MTS Centre faithful continue their behaviour of booing anyone in an opposition uniform, even though, in his case, he has been one of the most supportive and outspoken backers of Winnipeg through the city's dark NHL years.

"I don't really know what to expect," Selanne said. "It's a really long time but the memories I have, I'm very excited. I heard that the building is rocking and the people, the fans, are so excited about their team.

"It's going to be a very special day there and I can't wait.

"Hopefully they're not going to boo for me."

The Flash, now 41, said Tuesday he still has many friends here.

"Pretty much every place I have played, I have always had special relationships with the fans," he said.

"Obviously Winnipeg was really, really special. The people, there's a reason the plates on the cars have Friendly Manitoba, it's a friendly city and unbelievable fans. I spent a great four-and-a-half years there.

"When I got traded, I didn't really have a chance to say goodbye to the people. The next day I'm gone."

That trade, a Feb. 4, 1996 deal that sent Selanne, Marc Chouinard and a fourth-round pick to the Ducks for long-forgotten pieces Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round pick, still doesn't sit all that well with him, judging by the tone of his comments on Tuesday.

"I was shocked," Selanne said. "What happened two weeks before was that the new Winnipeg owners called me on the road, and there was some rumours before that they might trade one of us three (Alexei Zhamnov, Keith Tkachuk) and ...told me, 'Don't worry about those rumours, just play hockey and you're going to be a big part of our future down in Phoenix.'

"That's why I really didn't expect to get traded. I remember that phone call. It was tough... the first trade is always really hard because you almost feel you have failed.

"But a couple of days later I realized it's going to be a great, new opportunity for myself and it has been great down here. They really wanted me here. You want to move on as soon as possible.

"Especially coming from Finland, we don't have that culture where someone's going to traded. It was kind of a weird business to realize there are no feelings, you can get traded any time and there's no control with that. That was a big adjustment here.

"When you're young and you get traded, it's really, really tough."

Selanne also revealed Tuesday that the new Winnipeg Jets inquired about his services as a free agent during the summer.

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."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

No fun in Anaheim

 

TEEMU SELANNE hasn't been having a great amount of fun this season in Anaheim. The Ducks have a hefty losing record and have changed coaches, recently hiring Bruce Boudreau.

"We have almost tried everything," Selanne said Tuesday. "There are a lot of nights that there are a lot of things missing. Obviously confidence is the biggest issue right now.

"I think we can all do it but for some reason, our team is so fragile right now. But we still believe we have a good team here and we can turn this thing around."

He said he hasn't lost hope.

"Everything takes a little time to dial in," he said. "I can't wait for when we can turn this around, start winning some games and enjoying the games."