Back in 1992 a certain Finnish Player by the name of Teemu Selanne came to our great hockey town of Winnipeg and dawned the number 13. A number which in this town would become synonymous with Selanne, or as the “Finnish Flash” as he would become better known. He came in and captured our hearts as a high flying kid who had a passion and enthusiasm for the game of hockey that could only be conceived as boyish. All at a time when the all mighty dollar was creeping its way into this small hockey mad city much like the grim reaper would on a cool autumn day.
In that first season Winnipeg fans were truly blessed for the first time in a long time with the chance to see a bonafide uprising superstar and not since the likes of Bobby Hull had our city had such a revelation to the game wear our humble Jets uniform. Not long after we had a team barely staying afloat thanks to the plummeting Canadian Dollar and an owner who was strapped for cash and desperately trying to get rid of some of those red numbers that were in the company ink. That being said, it was on February 7, 1996 that Selanne was abruptly traded to the Anaheim Ducks to be alongside then line-mate Paul Kariya.
Flash-forward 17 and a half years and the former Winnipeg sensation who recorded a ridiculous 76 goals and 132 points in his Rookie season is still doing his thing in the NHL at nearly a point per game. Only one thing has changed this summer from others for the Finnish Flash heading into NHL camp, a contract. The 43 year-old is leaning towards returning for another season and it has been reported that he will only return if he is given a top-line role. I need to be honest and say that on all accounts it appears he will be returning to the Ducks, but we can all dream can’t we. Selanne has said his agent had been previously contacted by Winnipeg to see if an offer could even be made, which was surprisingly greeted with a yes. For the first time ever it has appeared that Selanne may hear offers from different organizations and if the man wants to play in a high role, you can sure bet there will be suitors looking for his leadership and ability.
In this day and age of athletes going through small markets in order to earn that first real payday with a high profile market it would seem somewhat of a revelation to have an athlete return to a small city where he got a chance to excel. He was treated like a god in Winnipeg and he is still seen with a romanticized view that not many athletes can or will ever be seen. We took a shine to him, and he took a shine to us. He took such a liking to our city that rumours have it that he ripped off his name tag off his locker when he was traded and stormed out without addressing the media because he wanted to stay so badly. In a city that is sometimes looked down upon by others it was refreshing to see such a likeable superstar show that he appreciated the fan-base here and he loved our city. It is because of this that he has remained dear to our hearts. If Teemu were to return it would cause a media-frenzy almost up to par with what it was like when we were being re-rewarded a franchise just over two years ago. His asking price might be a little steep, considering all the recent long-term deals Winnipeg had to sign recently with Bogosian, Wheeler and Little, but I think it is safe to say that “Selanne” jerseys would fly off the shelves for, well…ever.
Teemu has remained a class act throughout his career and any franchise is lucky to have a man like him not only on their ice, but in their community. That’s the reason he became such an icon in Winnipeg, he resembled the people and brought a blue-collar happy-go-lucky nature to the game that people in this province bring to their own work and their own friends, family and neighbours. It really is, “Friendly Manitoba”, and Teemu really is a friendly guy. The Jets organization really did his return right when he came as a member of the Ducks by giving him a video ceremony which makes loyal fans fight tears every time they watch it again here on Youtube.
In a city that has long had a black cloud hanging over it, it would be a welcome ray of sunshine to see such a living legend return to the a city that literally forced him to make this one of his homes. But let’s be honest, California has the sunshine, the celebrity lifestyle and a stability that has allowed Teemu to raise his family in one place. Winnipeg carries no glitz and no glamour but it carries heart, emotion and soul. We breathe hockey here, and we embrace a winner like we would an exceptionally warm day in January. Teemu would add some great leadership and depth to our forwards that really need to be tutored by someone like Selanne. He has had a great career with much success and he might have a little chip on his shoulder because he believes he can go out as a quality top-notch player and I for one would not doubt this man. He regularly shows up in the best shape to camp, something our boy Dustin Byfuglien needs to realise in order to lengthen his own career, and he brings a confident swagger that any team would relish. Now we all know this is probably a pipe-dream, but after hearing that simply getting an NHL team back for so many years was just that. Why not continue to fight for something that no one else will give us credit for until we force them to change their views on this city?