In a game that Selanne said he marked on his calendar as soon as the 2011-12 schedule was made public, the 41-year-old returns tonight for the first time in nearly 16 years to the city where his decorated career began.
Selanne was a first-round pick of the original Jets franchise back in 1988 as he was selected 10th overall by the club. He quickly made an impact on the team and in the league by posting NHL rookie records of 76 goals and 132 points in 1992-93.
The Finland native's tenure with the Jets lasted only three-plus seasons, however, as he played his final game with them on Feb. 4, 1996 before getting dealt to the Ducks three days later along with Marc Chouinard and a fourth- round pick in the 1996 draft in exchange for Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round pick in 1996. The Jets then relocated to Phoenix at the end of that season.
"Obviously, the first couple days I was just totally shocked about what happened," Selanne said of the trade in a conference call on Tuesday. "But then when you start learning the business a little bit more and how this works, and how excited I am with the new franchise. They really wanted me here."
Now in his 19th NHL season and in his second stint with Anaheim, Selanne won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007 and is the franchise's all-time leader in goals, assists, points and games played. He is tops on the club this season with 21 assists and 31 points heading into his anticipated return to Winnipeg.
"Well, obviously that was my first NHL team, and obviously starting there, I always said that the hockey is just such a big thing and all the fans and the whole city makes the players feel so special," he said. "It's a dream come true to start your career in Canada, and obviously all the memories that I have there is just so, so awesome."
While Selanne will be happy to be back among the Manitoba faithful, even as the enemy, a win would be a great souvenir to take back with him. The Ducks have lost their last three against the Jets franchise, having not beat them since a victory over the Atlanta Thrashes on Dec. 13, 2006.
Anaheim also hasn't won on the road since Oct. 27, going 0-7-3 in 10 games since. It started up a five-game road trip last night with a 4-1 defeat in Chicago.
The Ducks were less than two minutes away from getting shut out by former Anaheim goaltender Ray Emery before Selanne scored with 1:47 to play. That goal ran his point streak to seven straight games and he has a pair of goals and seven assists in that span.
"We didn't play smart enough," Hiller said. "We gave them their chances."
The new Jets play the third of a six-game homestand and have split the first two outings of the residency. Following a 2-1 win over the Wild on Tuesday, the Jets were blanked by the Capitals 1-0 on Thursday.
Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth stopped all 26 shots fired his way, while Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec was the hard-luck loser despite 27 stops. The Jets have lost two of three since a four-game win streak and have been held to three goals in that span.
Winnipeg has still won eight of its last 10 at home.