Number eight in your programs, number one in your hearts. You may not find a player more universally loved in the National Hockey League, or even in all of professional sports, than Teemu Selanne.
With Nicklas Lidstrom retiring earlier this summer, Selanne now takes over as the resident old man around the league. He’s respected by everyone. And even has he creeps closer and closer to the 50-year-old mark, he seems to be aging like a fine wine, and continues to play at a high level.
Teemu broke into the league as a draft pick of the original Winnipeg Jets in 1988. Yes, almost 25 years ago. However, he wouldn’t break into the league until the ’92-’93 season. And when he began his NHL career, he really knew how to kick it off with a bang. He finished with 132 points as a rookie. That made him a shoe-in for the Calder Trophy that year.
The following season was shortened due to the lockout and Selanne was traded to the Anaheim Ducks the following season. It’s with the Ducks, over two separate tenures, that we’ve seen him really leave his mark on this league. In his first four full seasons with the Ducks, Selanne hit over 100 points twice and had at least 85 in the other two.
Those type of numbers helped the Ducks get quite a return when they traded him to the San Jose Sharks in 2000-2001, getting a couple of players and a draft pick. Two full seasons with the Sharks after the trade showed a decline in production from Selanne, as did his year with the Colorado Avalanche, when he signed to re-team with Paul Kariya.
After the 2004-2005 lockout, Selanne returned to the Ducks. His first two seasons after his return featured campaigns of at least 90 points. It also featured a Stanley Cup title for the Ducks, which has seemingly been followed by Selanne contemplating retirement in every offseason since.
But Selanne continues to come back. His 2010-2011 campaign proved he still has plenty left in the tank, with 80 points in 73 games. Even last year, when he was stuck on a disappointing Ducks team, he still finished with a strong 66, including 26 goals, in 82 games.
One has to wonder if this lockout could mean the end of his career, though, if it drags on into the spring. Selanne signed a one-year deal to return this year, in what many figure to be his victory lap. But a lengthy lockout could mean that we’ve seen the last of Teemu Selanne.
Whenever his career does come to an end, it’s clear we’ve seen one of the all-time greats grace the stage for a career that has spanned 20 years, at least on the calendar. He’s the Ducks’ all-time leader in points, goals, and assists. He’s setting records for putting up the numbers that he has at his age. He’s 19th all-time in points, and 12th in goals.
When Selanne decides to call it quits, there’s no doubt it will be a sad day around the league, just as it was when Lidstrom retired. But until then, it’s a pleasure watching Selanne play at such a high level and he should, without question, have his number in the rafters in Anaheim when it’s all said and done.