When Anaheim Ducks winger Teemu Selanne announced in August that he would return for a final season in the NHL, no one speculated where his level of play would take him in the coming months. Every once in a while, and oh so rarely, a player is good enough to let the record of his past speak for itself. Selanne is just that type of player.
The same now applies as Selanne enters Sochi, the 6th winter games of his career and tying his fellow countryman Raimo Helminen for the most of any hockey player in Olympic history. No one questions Selanne’s potential play to come; the experience he brings to the table is already more than enough.
On the heels of play’s start Thursday, Finland announced yesterday that Selanne will stand as captain of the team and from the looks of practices, he will skate a top the first line alongside Mikael Granlund and Aleksander Barkov. The young talents Barkov, 18 years old, and Granlund, 21 years old, bring are definite factors needed at the forefront of a good hockey team, but Selanne’s presence alongside will bring the maturity needed to make a good line great.
Selanne knows he can score under pressure, and his teammates know he can score under pressure, as well. His unique power of patience in a sport where speed is so often mistaken with direct skill is essential to Finland’s early success in Sochi. Being able to know exactly when to shoot or pass, outwitting your opponent along the way, is the type of play Selanne’s patience has mastered through 21 years in the NHL.
As captain of the Finnish team, Selanne will no doubt be the figure his teammates look to emulate in the midst of any obstacles surely to come. The veteran can probably tell a few tales about the game not being over until it is actually over.
Less than 48 hours from now, Finland will skate onto the biggest stage in the world, already labeled as an underdog. But they are underdogs lead by one of the greatest hockey players of our time, and that is not something to overlook — it’s a leadership even the greatest skills of youth cannot buy. When the stakes are this high, Selanne only knows one way through, and that’s to win.