It is a parking lot now that mostly sits empty save for the few days of use for those who head across the street to take in some Canadian Football League action. In that lot stood the old Winnipeg Arena, a square-shaped barn hatched out of the 1950s whose most notable feature was the large portrait of Queen Elizabeth in her prime. On a cold March night very familiar to those who live in this prairie town, the arena was jammed to its capacity when a baby-faced outsider from another frigid land cemented his spot in the heart of Manitoba.
Mark Chipman was there nearly 19 years ago when Teemu Selanne punctuated the breaking of Mike Bossy’s goal-scoring record for an NHL rookie by flinging his glove up in the air and turning his stick into a would-be rifle to shoot it out of the air. “I remember very, very vividly being at that game against the (Quebec) Nordiques when he broke the record,” Chipman said. “A game we ironically ended up losing. But nobody would remember that, right? “Nobody remembers Joe Sakic and the rest of that crew were a great team that went on to win a Stanley Cup in Colorado. But everybody remembers Teemu shooting his glove out of the air.”
The Anaheim Ducks’ forward still has a magical hold on this city, where he launched his NHL career with a flourish in 1992 as a 22-year old. He scored 76 goals that year and piled up 132 points, breaking league records and winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Winnipeg traded Selanne to Anaheim in February of 1996, just before the Jets moved to Phoenix. Selanne returns to the Manitoba capital for the first time Saturday, as the Ducks face the Jets at the MTS Centre, and the city is gearing up to give him a warm embrace. His return has been a lead item on local news shows, a big press conference has been arranged for him on Saturday, and a local bar is holding a Teemu Selanne theme night featuring Selanne Jets jerseys and hockey cards.
The memories are fresh nearly two decades later and they will flow throughout the gleaming downtown MTS Centre when the “Finnish Flash” makes his much-anticipated return to the city Saturday night for the Ducks’ game against the Winnipeg Jets