[Ed. Note: On Saturday, Teemu Selanne will be making his triumphant return to Winnipeg since being traded during the 1995-1996 season. As a tribute to Teemu, Anaheim Calling will be spending the days leading up to his homecoming in the 'Peg taking a look back at what got him to this point in his career. Already covered: Teemu and the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, and his first years with the Jets. Now the trade that brought him to Anaheim.]
On February 7, 1996 I was about two and a half weeks away from turning ten years old and I remember my mom telling me that my favorite hockey team had just gotten a new player. All she could tell me about him was that he was "some guy from Finland." I highly doubt I knew what that meant and I'm sure that I didn't know what it would come to mean to me.
Teemu quickly became my favorite player. Paul Kariya's 1997 holdout pushed me over the edge, and it's been Teemu ever since. But like I said, I was just a kid; a new hockey fan, learning the game, so I don't have much in the way of memories to go on about the immediate aftermath of the greatest trade in franchise history. Luckily, my first click of research for this post turned up this glorious news segment from TSN.
An understandably strong reaction to losing a phenomenal hockey player and a great all around guy. We can relate, as just over five years later he would be shipped off to San Jose in an equally horrendous trade (Kristen will have more on that, Thursday). To make matters even worse, it happened in the middle of a lame duck season and his then fiancé, Sirpa, was pregnant. Teemu was getting screwed over by management just as bad as the Jets fans were themselves. As the video shows though, Teemu was clearly being used to sell hockey in Phoenix. They used his jersey to announce the sale of the franchise and even had him shooting promos for hockey in the desert.
"Hi Phoenix, I'm Teemu Selanne. I play this game fast. Sometimes I score." With a spokesman like that there is no way the Coyotes would be mired in the ownership fiasco that's been their reality for the past three years, right? So, why trade him?
According to this article by Eric Legault from Le Coq Sportif Guide to Hockey it was with an eye toward rebuilding. The Jets got 20-year-old Oleg Tverdovsky and Chad Kilger, Anaheim's two most recent first round draft picks, and a third rounder for Selanne and Marc Chouinard and a fourth round pick.
Of course one would think that a fourth year player who broke onto the scene scoring a record 76 goals might be one of the players that a franchise would try to build around, rather than ship out in favor of unproven youth. However, the financially struggling franchise had just matched Chicago's five year $17.2 million offer sheet on team captain Keith Tkachuk who, luckily for us Ducks fans, became the centerpiece of the Phoenix Coyotes instead.
One can only think that given the connection the Jets fans had with Teemu, his having not been a part of the move to Phoenix and the vastly less hostile atmosphere toward the rest of the team, he'll get a better reception upon his return to The ‘Peg than the inexplicable boo/cheer/boo welcome that Shane Done received earlier in the month. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a Winnipeg Jets jersey in person that didn't have Teemu's name and number on the back. As a matter of fact, at the last Ducks game I attended here in Anaheim I saw a Jets 2.0 jersey with Selanne 13 on it.
Saturday night he'll get the ovation he deserves right back where it started from. He's not just "some guy from Finland" anymore. He's The Teemu Selanne: Calder Trophy winner; Rocket Richard winner; Stanley Cup Champion and future Hall of Famer. Most of those accolades were accomplished on his own, but there was someone else that had a huge impact on Teemu's career...