Ryan Porth, Robby Stanley and I were exhausted.
Ryan and I had just flown back on a 7:00am flight from Columbus after witnessing Nashville’s comeback win over the Blue Jackets in overtime the night before. Robby was in the midst of finals week.
We were tired and it showed as we stood outside the Anaheim locker room waiting for Bruce Boudreau.
The Ducks were practicing at Bridgestone Arena for their game against Nashville the following day, we felt it would be less hectic to get our work done on Friday.
Suddenly, Teemu Selanne burst through the doors and emerged from Anaheim’s locker room.
“Why the long faces everyone?” Selanne asked us. “Turn those frowns upside-down! It’s going to be a great day.”
Teemu Selanne has been in the NHL for so long that when he joined the league, the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators didn’t even exist.
When he came up as a rookie with the Winnipeg Jets in the fall of 1992, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim – as they were initially known – were still a year away from launch. The Nashville Predators did not come into existence until 1998.
Wednesday night, Selanne will star in a matchup that was not even possible when he debuted in the League 21 years ago.
“Things happen,” Selanne said. “You never know. It’s exciting.”
Quite a few “things” have happened since Teemu Selanne entered the league. He came onto the scene with flash and a bang during the 1992-93 season, obliterating the rookie goal-scoring record, racking up an unheard of – and unmatched – 76 goals in his inaugural campaign.
He’s picked up a Calder Trophy, won three Rocket Richards, and made 11 All Star teams along the way.
There was also that Stanley Cup he picked up in 2007 with Anaheim.
At 42 years old, he’s currently in his 20th NHL season. While most players a 42 would be hanging on, possibly taking up a roster spot due to a sense of nostalgia, Selanne is the team’s second leading scorer, averaging slightly less than a point per game. The Ducks, meanwhile are solidly in second place in the Western Conference.
“There’s no secrets,” Selanne said. “I don’t really feel that old.”
Selanne spent three-and-a-half seasons with Winnipeg before a controversial trade in 1996 saw him being shipped to Anaheim. Months later, the Jets would move to Phoenix.
Despite already being a star, Selanne blossomed in Anaheim, scoring 482 points in a roughly five year stint.
In 2002, the Ducks moved Selanne to San Jose, where he would spend a couple of seasons before moving onto Colorado, where he suffered a knee injury which severely limited his performance.
After the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, Anaheim brought Selanne back into the fold and he has remained there ever since, setting numerous franchise records, including points, goals and assists.
In the 2011-12 season, Selanne racked up 26 goals, becoming the oldest player in NHL history (at 41) to have a 20-goal season.
“Obviously I still enjoy the game,” Selanne said. “I feel like I haven’t lost much, so it’s a good sign. I’ve always been very lucky to play with great players. Those are the combinations when good things happen.””
In his 20 years in the NHL, Selanne has scored over 20 goals 18 times. The only two times he fell short of the 20-goal mark were during his injury-plagued year in Colorado and during the 2007-08 season when he only played 27 games after briefly pondering retirement. In 2006, he hit the 1,000 point mark for his career – he currently has 1,406. His 668 career goals are 11th all-time, tied with fellow Southern California legend Luc Robitaille.
The “Finnish Flash” has been around the league for so long that he is going up against players who idolized him when they were learning to play the game.
“Growing up he was my favorite,” Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “I think he still is probably the biggest sports star in any sport in Finland. He’s an amazing hockey player. It’s great to see him still playing.”
While Pekka Rinne grew up watching Teemu Selanne, he figured he would never get the chance to stop one of his shots. At the very least, he didn’t imagine that he would still be this hard to stop. In Nashville’s 6-game win over Anaheim during the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals, Selanne registered 6 goals in those 6 games.
“It is kind of weird,” Rinne said. “If I think about myself, if I ever play hockey when I’m 42, I don’t think I’m going to be that effective or that good. He’s a special kind of player. It’s amazing what he can still do on the ice.”
He’s been around for over 20 years and yet he’s still one of the most dangerous forwards in the NHL.
Rinne puts it about as succinctly as possible.
“When Selanne’s on the ice, you simply have to be aware of him.”
Photo: Sarah Fuqua