The 2014 season has been one scattered with ups and downs for Anaheim Ducks legend Teemu Sleanne. Once Selanne announced he would be returning for his final year in the NHL, immediate speculation began regarding how the veteran would fill his final pages of hockey history.
Statistically Selanne has struggled to keep up in a year laced with unprecedented rookie success around the NHL. In 60 games Selanne only has nine goals and 16 assists and has made mention once or twice of his disappointment in decreased ice time this season.
But where Selanne’s farewell to the NHL might not be remembered for record breaking numbers, this final year in Anaheim will certainly be a memory of everything he has contributed to hockey in Orange County.
Any given night at the Honda Center the Selanne jerseys outnumber those of any other player in every pizza and chicken wing line around. The blue Finnish national jersey could easily stand in as the Ducks’ fourth jersey should the NHL ever find need for one. And the homemade glitter and marker signs with words of devotion for the Finnish Flash consistently line the ice as the Ducks skate out for pre-game warm-ups each night.
Selanne is still the player always talking through situations with teammates and giving encouraging pats on the back to others after a turnover is made. His smile on the bench is unmatched when one of Anaheim’s younger players makes a great pass or even better, a great goal. His Anaheim teammates praise his attitude daily in the locker room and his famed pep talks — what Selanne brings to this team is so much more than points.
While the Ducks have a deep enough roster to fill any sort of skill void from Selanne’s absence next year, no player is the clear candidate yet to take on the culture and character that will surely be missed.
It’s rare you ever find a Ducks player even fans of the Anaheim rival Los Angeles Kings can’t bash. In fact, it’s rare to find a player throughout the entire NHL that has done for the game of hockey what Selanne has done in his record run with the league. He will be missed, but never forgotten — thanks to those No. 8 jerseys in the pizza line every game night.