When the Winnipeg Jets left for Phoenix all those years back, hockey fans couldn’t imagine a night like Saturday night.
Indeed, when Winnipeg and Anaheim face each other at the MTS Centre, it will be like a parlay of long shots hitting. First, the Jets had to be reborn in Manitoba. Second, Selanne had to play hockey until he was 41.
“When the season became public, then we needed a schedule, I marked the date in my calendar — even [though] I didn’t know if I can play still this year,” Selanne said yesterday in a conference call. “So obviously, I knew it’s going to be very special to have a chance to come back there and play.”
Selanne was drafted 10th overall by the Jets in 1988. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Die Hard was about to be released, and Sweet Child o’ Mine was on the verge of becoming a hit single for Guns N’ Roses.
How long ago was 1988 in hockey terms?
—-Wayne Gretzky had yet to suit up for the Los Angeles Kings.
—-Joe Nieuwendyk was the rookie of the year.
—-There were still playing games – and would be for a more few years – in Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium, the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens.
Selanne only spent four seasons in Winnipeg, his most memorable coming as a rookie in 1992-93 when he scored a record 76 goals.
In 1996, with the wheels of the Jets’ departure for Arizona already in motion, he was traded to Anaheim.
“When I got traded, I didn’t really have a chance to say goodbye to the people and the city,” he said. “So that’s why I’m really looking forward to going back there, and obviously I know there’s still a lot of fans.”