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Jets fans fly south for Teemu Selanne jersey retirement

01/11/2015 07:00 EST | Updated 03/13/2015 05:59 EDT
Hundreds of Jets fans have headed south for the weekend, where former Winnipeg right-winger Teemu Selanne's jersey was retired Sunday night ahead of a game between the Jets and Ducks.

Selanne retired after playing the 2013-2014 season with the Ducks. Prior to the Sunday night bout with the Jets, Anaheim will hoist the No. 8 jersey to the rafters of the Honda Centre to commemorate "The Finnish Flash" and his career with the Ducks.

Manitobans like Dan Rasmussen, who remember and cherish the Selanne-era Jets in the 90s, made the trip this weekend to watch what is expected to be an emotional ceremony.

"Being able to see the Jets play again and seeing Selanne's jersey retired is something no one ever thought possible in 1996," said Rasmussen, who is originally from Starbuck, Man. "It's what every Jet fans wants to see after the career he had. A career that started in Winnipeg."

- WATCH: Teemu Selanne set for 'emotional' celebration at Jets-Ducks game

Selanne spent almost four seasons with the Jets. In his first season with the team in 1993, Selanne broke the league's all-time rookie single season scoring and points records with 76 goals and 132 points, respectively.

"Selanne is the man," said Brett Robinson. "I was 20 ... when he got rookie of the year. I was there for his magical record-breaking goal. He's a class act. He is the man."

Robinson tried to land tickets to Sunday's game but came up empty-handed, so he and his friends decided to spring for a private box.

"It was hard to get tickets so I called the Ducks. They said 'no tickets,'" said Robinson. "So I asked about a box and there were two available. We thought about it for about two seconds and we said, 'lets do it.'"

For Francois Xavier, Man. native Jim Turnbull, Selanne's retirement is bittersweet. Turnbull maintains Winnipeg should have never lost the franchise when it did in the 90s, and Selanne should've retired a Jet.

"It's righting a wrong that Winnipeg should have always had a team," said Turnbull. "He always should have been a Winnipeg Jet and should have been able to retire a Winnipeg Jet. That's how I look at it. He is retiring a Winnipeg Jet, not a Duck."

Thirty-eight-year-old Renny Dyal said he and his friends had to make the trip from Winnipeg.

"Teemu has such an attachment to Winnipeg and vice versa," said Dyal. "He is a proud ambassador of Winnipeg, and it's childhood memories. He is humble, low key, friendly and hard working. That is Winnipeg."

Winnipegger Kevin Ali headed to Anaheim, too. He said Selanne's consummate professionalism makes him a model pro-athlete. 

"He is what professional athletes should be," said Ali. "The memories of him are amazing.

"When he left I was so sad. I had a hard time following hockey. but followed his career. This is going to be fantastic."

Fin fans fly in

Eetu Kauppinen and his four friends flew in from Finland for the game.

"We have never watched an NHL game in North America and to have this as our first game is very emotional," said Kauppinen. "He is so big back home; every one knows him.

Kauppinen said Selanne is idolized back in Finland.

"He is an idol as a person and a hockey player," he said. "When the president of Finland meets him, it's an honour for the president"

Kauppinen said the Finnish are all tuning in for the ceremony Sunday.

"Normally it costs money to watch NHL hockey in Finland. Today, the whole country is watching it for free. It's on at 3 a.m. and everyone will be watching."

Puck drop is at 8 p.m. CST Sunday and the jersey retirement ceremony took place around 7:30 p.m.

The Jets also faced off against the Kings in L.A. Saturday night, winning in a shootout by one goal with the final score being 5-4.

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