While Anaheim’s season ended in disappointment, the love and appreciation Teemu got from everyone in Honda Center was a moment for the ages. His teammates, the fans, and even the Kings acknowledged the greatness that was the “Finnish Flash” during and after the handshake line in way that made at least a few rooms across North America and Finland turn pretty dusty.
Few players brought a world class level of skill that was matched only by their poise and class on and off the ice. This amazing mix made Selanne arguably the NHL‘s best ambassador during his tenure in the league and helped make his amazing career truly one of a kind.
Selanne arrived in North America as a rookie in 1992 with the original Winnipeg Jets, and promptly set a league rookie record with 76 goals.While Selanne never came close to that single-season gaudy total again, he remained one of the league’s elite snipers into his 40s.
In 1996, Selanne arrived for his first tenure with the Ducks as he teamed up with fellow sniper Paul Kariya to form one of the league’s most dynamic duos. Their play helped put hockey on the map in Orange County and made the Ducks a perennial playoff team in the late 1990s.
In 2001, with the Ducks free-falling out of the Western Conference playoffs, Selanne was sent north to the San Jose Sharks where he would play parts of three seasons. In 2003, Selanne signed as a free agent with the Colorado Avalanche and again teamed up with Kariya as they looked to capture the Stanley Cup in Denver. In short, his one season in Denver was an unmitigated disaster as Selanne was playing fourth-line minutes in the playoffs and appeared to be “washed-up”.
The 2004-2005 season was wiped out with a lockout, and Selanne returned to Anaheim as a free agent in 2005 on a small contract, hoping to end his career where it started.
All Selanne did in the next nine years is record back-to-back 90 point seasons, play a key role in the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup, and score another 200 goals. Not too shabby for a player who was thought to be nearing the end a decade ago.
Selanne proclaimed the 2013-14 season would be his last in September, and this season was a farewell tour as crowds everywhere applauded him for his contributions to the game. While his offensive output was paltry by his lofty standards, the Ducks had the best record in the Western Conference and Selanne had an Olympic tournament for the ages. In capturing the bronze for Finland, Selanne added to his all-time Olympic point record and was named the tournament’s MVP.
While the Ducks’ season can be considered a disappointment considering it ended short of capturing the Stanley Cup, the way Selanne continued to pile up accolades at age 43 made it a season for the ages. Not too many players can say they were cheered in every single arena they played in, but Teemu Selanne had just that happen to him on his “farewell tour”.
It doesn’t matter where you live or what team you root for — it is impossible to love hockey without loving Selanne. At the risk of sounding overly cliché, few players in any sport exhibit the amount of class and skill that Teemu has in two decades of professional hockey. The NHL’s first season without Selanne in decades will take some getting used to for sure.