ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 10: Teemu Selanne #8 of the Anaheim Ducks throws a puck to fans during warmups prior to playing in his 1300th NHL game against the Dallas Stars at the Honda Center on January 10, 2012 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
[Ed. Note: Back in the pre-season, before our hopes and dreams were still alive, Daniel ran a contest. Readers were given the chance to guess where THN would predict the spot the Ducks finish in this season. The prize for guessing correctly would be the chance to post on the front page of AC. Reader DennisKE guessed correctly and below is his post - written before the Ducks current run.]
So after half the season is over and I keep wondering why I get up to watch Ducks games from Europe (they usually start around 2 am; speak of a ruined night), I figured I might as well write the piece on AC that I was promised for guessing the right projected finish of the Ducks (what a dream that would be) from THN in their season preview. I have decided to write about how I became a Ducks fan and Teemu Selanne's induction to the Hall of Fame.
Basically I always thought hockey was a cool sport, but here in Germany (which is where I am from), soccer rules about every aspect in sports. Nevertheless, I somehow started going to games of the local professional club, the Cologne Sharks in 1996, when I was 14 years old. At some point (pretty quickly I guess) I started realizing that all the really good players play in the NHL and after I saw the very first few highlights from NHL Powerweek (the cool show where Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros claim this is the "coolest game on earth" in the trailer), I decided that German hockey is for me no more.
As my mum is from Finland, I went to the CNN text to look up the scoring leaders and stopped at the first Finnish name. You guessed it, that name was Teemu Selänne. It is a really strange way to become a fan, but over the years I kept reading so many good things about this guy: being a kindergarten teacher in off season, being nominated for the Lady Byng as a gentlemanly player, almost all opponents only had positive things to say about him. I watched him play as much as I could so that I became a true fan. Nowadays, I am quite happy that my idol is 41 and still playing, so I don't have to feel weird about staying up at night to watch a guy younger than myself (I am 29), but I can still watch Teemu.
The very first thing I do in the morning (if I did not stay up to watch the game that is) is check Yahoo Sports to see if Teemu scored a goal. By now, I am also loyal to the Ducks as an organization (and have a feeling I might keep watching them even without Teemu) and of course a great fan of Team Finland. As most of you (probably), I was always hoping that Teemu would get his Cup before retiring and so in 2007 I woke up about everyone in my house by shouting out happily as Teemu and the Ducks made it. It was certainly a great feeling to see him play in Helsinki last year. I had actually written him a letter how he needs to retire at some point so I can stop behaving like a little boy about this sport and he replied!
So now that you know all about my own obsession with Teemu Selänne, you can probably already guess that I really think Selänne should be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. However, I am not entirely sure about that. Over the years I have gotten the feeling that any non-North American player has to excel beyond the "normal" superstar expectations to be recognized as such in the US/Canada. I won't start a whole argument about this, but as examples I would cite Ryan Miller (who people still think is one of the best goalies in the league) and Martin Brodeur (who everyone seems to think is the best goalie of all time, while he - in my view - was just a really good one lucky enough to be playing on a top defensive team for all the years) on the one hand and Dominik Hasek (who is probably the best goalie ever to play) or Miikka Kiprusoff (who has a save percentage just as good as Brodeur in a long career, but was never on a team as competitive as the Devils) on the other hand. The latter two are respected well, but I guess everyone would challenge my assumption that Hasek was better than Brodeur ever was. Also I wonder why Selänne was not in the All Star Game last year, while some other strange names where (wouldn't Team Selänne vs Team Lidström have been a great match up of two 40 year old captains?).
Anyhow, as I said, that is not really the discussion I want to trigger and for making my point, I probably could have even found better examples if I put more thinking into it. I think no one would disagree though, that players from big market teams usually get preferential treatment at awards and other recognitions (MVP Corey Perry being a nice exception last year, Non-Norris finalist Lubomir Visnovsky on the other hand proving that rule). Now, as far as I know, only three players can be inducted in the HOF on the first ballot. It might be four. I am not hugely familiar with the balloting procedures, so maybe the post becomes completely irrelevant after the first comment.
This is who that first ballot could include, provided they all retire this season (which isn't all that unlikely):
- Martin Brodeur
- Nicklas Lidström
- Teemu Selänne
- Jaromir Jagr
- Dominik Hasek
- plus a number of great players that have not been inducted till that time (2015?), like potentially Adam Oates (16th all time in scoring)
So what I am saying is: we all seem to assume that Teemu will be a sure-fire-First-Ballot-Hall-of-Famer. But can we really be so sure? I do think he deserves it, but looking at that list, I feel that Brodeur and Nicklas Lidström (both of them: rightly so) will definitely be ahead of Teemu on the "merit" list and then it becomes a toss up between Hasek, Jagr and Selänne. I am not sure Teemu would win that toss-up, given the fact that he is always so nice and humble and is possibly the easiest player to snub (as he would feel any induction at any time is a big honor, which it doubtless is).
What do you think?
P.S. Let me state once and for all: I do NOT claim that Brodeur was a bad player and I am NOT saying that there is anything unusual about "local" heroes being more popular than foreign ones in any country. So there was no harm meant with either comment.