The Winnipeg Jets nabbed Teemu Selanne 10th overall in the 1988 NHL draft, and he ended up being the most prolific goal scorer of any player selected that year, finishing with 684 in his career.
Four years after he was picked, Selanne landed in North America and proceeded to score 76 goals, a rookie record that may never be broken. The closest anyone has come to that total since was Alex Ovechkin, who notched 52 goals in 2005-06.
Selanne became famous in Winnipeg for that record and for turning his stick into a gun for the celebration that followed, but he only ever played four seasons and six playoff games in Winnipeg before being traded to Anaheim in 1996. The Jets got Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky, and a third round pick in return, then up and left for Arizona as the Coyotes a few months later. Selanne, of course, went on to have a Hall of Fame career mostly with the Ducks, who retired his number in 2015.
For Monday’s Game 6 in Winnipeg, Selanne returned to his first NHL home. He flew in, on a jet of course, and was a celebrated onlooker when the camera panned on him. The Jets fans fully uniformed for the White Out, as they are known to do, erupted in appreciative applause.
It’s a sound parts of the hockey world are being turned on to again, but it’s one Selanne fondly remembers from his earliest NHL days.
“You know what, you’re never going to forget that, it’s unbelievable,” Selanne told Jamie Thomas about the raucous Winnipeg crowd. “The Whiteout, I always wanted to come in (for a) playoff game since I retired and now I’m here, so very excited.”
Selanne notched four goals in six playoff games as a Jet, which was a first-round loss against Vancouver. He scored another 40 playoff goals in 124 games through the rest of his career, winning one Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. Selanne may have spent a very small portion of his career in Winnipeg and in fact, the Manitoba city was without an NHL team more often than not when the “Finnish Flash” was active, but the love affair has always been there.
As Scott Oake mentioned in the video above, a case can be made that Selanne is the most beloved Winnipeg Jet of all time.
“It’s always a special time for me to come here and see how much the fans appreciate the hockey players and myself,” he said. “What a great relationship we have had for so many years.”
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) May 8, 2018
The Jets were vastly outplayed by Nashville in Game 6, falling 4-0 to send the game back to Bridgestone Arena for Game 7 Thursday night. But despite that, Selanne sees nothing but good things in this team, as long as it doesn’t come out flat as it did on Monday.
“I think they have all the tools to win. They don’t have a weakness,” Selanne said. “I really like the defence, the goalies, they have the power to score the goals. Like I said they have no weaknesses they just have to make sure they show up every night.”