Tribute to Teemu Week: Return to the Happy Place


(via baronvg on YouTube)

When we were presented with this project I was a bit worried that I hadn't been around long enough to appreciate the early years of Teemu Selanne. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to capture the greatness of this elite athlete on the verge of a monumental occasion in his ever inspiring career.

And then I began to write about him and it became clear; his legacy and his career, even in the short time I've been a hockey fan, would do all the talking for me. I'm simply the messenger. The great part of this portion of Selanne's career is that it is not only a chapter in it's own right, but it's an exciting one all on its own.

Selanne revamped his career in Anaheim thanks to knee surgery, an NHL Lockout, and he did it all without Paul Kariya by his side. Only Selanne could make slops into a feast. After the difficult and disappointing seasons in San Jose and Colorado, Selanne made the decision to return to Finland to have knee surgery to repair the nagging injury. The rehabilitation period would be long and tiresome, but it also came at the perfect time. The NHL, too, was resting and rehabilitating during a lengthy lockout that saw the cancellation of the 2004-05 season. Selanne nurtured his knee, signed with Anaheim once again, and in August of 2005 he came home to his happy place.

It's in Anaheim where Selanne not only thrived, but achieved the ultimate dream. Winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 will be, for many players from that team, the highlight of their career. For Selanne it will be as well, but the achievements he's accomplished since then are incredible.

Starting in the 2005-06 season, Selanne scored 40 goals at the age of 35. The following year he scored 48 becoming the only player over the age of 35 to score 40+ goals in consecutive seasons. He would go on to finish the 2006-07 season with 94 points. Just last year, having only played 73 games, Selanne scored 80 points (31-49=80) to place him 10th overall in the league.

Currently, at 41 years young, Selanne is the leading scorer for the Ducks in the 2011-12 season (9-21=30).

Despite making fans and fellow teammates wait months and months to declare his return to the league every summer since he won that shinny chalice in 2007, Selanne returns again and again to lace up the skates and blow the minds of hockey viewers everywhere. Any hockey fan would be hard-pressed to deny that even at age 41, he’s still the fastest skater on the ice, he’s got the softest hands of any player half his age, and hair that would make Getzlaf Fabio jealous.

The man hasn’t skipped a beat. While it hasn’t necessarily been smooth skating in Anaheim and despite the injuries and missing chunks of the regular season, Selanne has still managed to score 194 goals, 225 assists for 419 points…in 410 games played. Since major knee surgery, the living legend has continued to average more than a point per game.

He’s gone on to become the Ducks all time leading goal and point scorer. He’s played more games in an Anaheim jersey than any other player. Fans have watched as he’s climbed scoring chart after scoring chart. They cheered when he scored goal #500 and again when he scored #600.

I don’t even know how to put much of this into context, so I wont. Here’s a little breakdown of what we’ve experienced with the Finish Flash.

His numbers, in Anaheim ALONE...

  • 410 goals (1st)
  • 461 assists (1st)
  • 871 points (1st)
  • 774 games played (1st)
  • 1.13 points per game
  • Most Goals in a season - 52
  • Most Points in a season - 109

There has been no finer player to wear a Ducks jersey than Teemu Selanne.

His career numbers...

  • 646 goals (13th)
  • 724 assists
  • 1370 points
  • 1289 games played
  • 240 PP goals (5th)

He’s not just a local hero in Anaheim, he’s an international superstar. In 2010 he became the Winter Olympics all time points leader with 37. And to say that Finland loves him would be an understatement.

It’s assumed by many that this will be Selanne’s final season in the NHL. If so, his farewell tour has already included a stop to his native homeland of Helsinki Finland where, as a celebrity in his own right, Selanne was able to give his hometown fans one last show. His tour will continue Saturday when he returns to Winnipeg, where his NHL career all started.

I'm not exactly sure at what point in Teemu Selanne's career that he cemented his place as an all star and a legend, but there is no doubt that he is one. I don't think it necessarily happened when he was drafted or when he broke a rookie record that may take decades to be erased (if at all). I'm not sure that his reign in Anaheim alongside pal and teammate Paul Kariya was what put him over the top either. Winning a Stanley Cup doesn't necessarily buy you a place in the hall of fame, and neither does a lengthy NHL career.

The fact of the matter is, as a fan base of the Anaheim Ducks and the NHL in general, we are a lucky bunch. Having the honor and the glory to witness the magic and the aura that is Teemu Selanne is special. To see his character and his charm on display night in and night out. To listen to that choppy broken English describe the events of the game, the good, the bad, the "unbelievable". Selanne, in this world of hockey elite, is a forerunner. His numbers aren't flattering, they're down right impressive.

His years of service and ability to overcome and disregard the ups and downs of injuries and bad seasons is remarkable. Selanne has seemingly only gotten better with age. He’s a leader and an inspiration to players on his team who are young enough to be his children. Every year the man contemplates retirement only to realize that his life, his love, is on that ice. Need a reminder? Recall him jumping around like a 5 year-old after scoring a late goal in the third period versus Dallas.

I challenge you to find fault in what Selanne brings to the game of hockey. I challenge you to look into the face of the ageless wonder and question his motives on the ice. To deny his talents and his accomplishments as anything other than pure skill, grace and athleticism.

If he were to describe himself, one might hear him say that he’s, "Obviously, unbelievable."

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