We all knew this day was in the making--ever since the Finnish Flash put on the Mighty Ducks jersey.
There are many great hockey players and hockey all-stars--but what differentiates Teemu Selanne from the rest was the combination of his endless skill on the ice and his down-to-earth approachability off the ice. We can spend days on end talking his NHL-breaking rookie year or the series-changing OT goal against the dreaded foe Detroit Red Wings....But we can spend YEARS sharing personal stories and moments in our lives when we have encountered the hockey legend in person. He was never above his stardom. He entered into the NHL knowing how to play the game well, but better knowing how to treat people--his teammates and his fans.
The NHL is a lesser place without Teemu. He was not only a sports superstar, but he was an inspiring model of an all-around amazing human being (with some SICK mitts).
We all knew this past week was going to be a big one in the memories of all Ducks fans. I knew this one was going to be one for my camera as well. So enough with the text....I hope you can relive and enjoy the special moment that we witness Sunday night. *Special thanks to Chris Kober for contributing some of his pictures!
Gearing up in preparation for Teemu's banner raising, the Ducks held a few events earlier in the week. The first was a screening of the Finnish Teemu Selanne documentary, "Sel8nne" held in Newport Beach. Viewers lucky enough to afford the VIP pass had the chance to meet and take pictures with the main man himself. Everyone else attended the Q&A session with Teemu after the movie [Ed. Note: more on this from Kyle, soon enough. -CK].
Teemu Selanne Trophy Display
The day before the ceremony, the Ducks held a special viewing event of Teemu's many trophies and accolades. Inside a large room at the Segerstrom Center for Arts, the Hockey Hall of Fame brought out and displayed Teemu Selanne's trophies.
And of course....there is the one and only...Lord Stanley
That was by far one of the coolest things I've done....A great way to start my 2015 don't you think? I finally got to meet, hug and kiss the 2007 Lord Stanley, whom I saw from afar being paraded down next to the Honda Center way back when....
And the Rocket Richard wasn't all too shabby either!
Altogether, it was very cool to see all notable distinctions in one room. That room was rather crowded with accolades, I must say!
The night finally came when the most revered number in Anaheim--No. 8--was retired and raised as the first among the rafters.
The Ducks made multiple announcements throughout the week and day reminding fans to arrive early enough to be seated by 4:15. As it turned out, Honda Center was buzzing pretty early on as fans looked to snag parking early and wait for the doors to open at 3:00.
Walking up to Honda Center, it was pretty cool to majority of backs bearing the number 8 or 13, albeit, there were many variations of jerseys. There were plenty of the home and away "D" jerseys, as well as eggplant and teal throwbacks, mixed in with the occasional Stadium Series jersey or even rarer, the are Wild Wing third jersey. Then there were also Selanne fans from out of town sporting the old home and away number 13 Winnipeg jerseys, and even some wearing the Finnish Olympic jerseys. Sure, this was a regular season match up against the Winnipeg Jets, but lets be real--we were all there at the Honda Center for one reason only...to celebrate the hockey career of the legendary Great 8.
I arrived a bit earlier to simply scope out the display. Unfortunately, contrary to what is allowed during all regular season games, those who did not have tickets in the lower bowl were not allowed to approach the glass and scope out the ice. Therefore, I was sadly forced to turn around and could not take pictures of the entire set up in close proximity.
Fortunately, having a nosebleed center ice season ticket is far from being unfortunate. I had a great view from atop...
Teemu Selanne's trophy friends were all present and accounted for [Ed. Note: almost -CK] --as their presence highlighted his accomplishments on the ice.
Iconic images of Teemu were projected across the drapes hanging down from the rafters, reminding fans of all his moments in hockey--from his Calder-winning rookie year in Winnipeg to his winning the 2014 Sochi Olympic MVP honors.....
The Number 8 was given special honors as the number was spray-painted on both ends of the rink as a tribute to Teemu. Lights of "For8ver" danced along the ice throughout the night.
Upon entering, all the fans were given small "Flashing" LED lights to wear at the start of the ceremony. The full effect of an entire arena wearing tiny blue blinking lights was not apparent until the lights dimmed and the opening Teemu Selanne vignette began playing. It was absolutely magical--as the ceremony took an ethereal and almost-celestial effect. Those lights certainly did the trick of transforming the Honda Center.
The long introductions and subsequent walks down the carpet to respective seats were next. Guests included owners Samueli's, the always-booed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Ducks GM Bob Murray, and NHL stars such as J.S. Giguere, Guy Herbert, Scott Niedemayer, Chris Pronger, Saku Koivu and Selanne's own childhood hero, Jari Kurri. Selanne's family including his parents and his wife and children were last seated, and an empty seat for Teemu's departed agent Don Baizley.
The Anaheim Ducks all skated out and lined up to welcome down the man of the night....Enter Teemu Selanne.
Hugs were given down the line as Teemu greeted each teammate, before finally walking up to the center of the ice.
As usual, Teemu remained humble and ever so grateful for the love and support of all those around him, lastly thanking his fans. It was the quintessential Teemu speech--selfless and inspiring.
And so it begins....
Of course Teemu was not alone, as his family soon joined him to celebrate this momentous occasion of the raising of his number to the rafters.
In case you want to watch the raising of the number again....
A Teemu Selanne Warm-up
A Finn for the Win
In the most storybook of endings on a night dedicated to the most well known and beloved of Finns, young Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen, who grew up idolizing Teemu Selanne, scored the game-winning shootout goal. I mean honestly...you just can't write a better ending than this....
WHEW! Let's be honest....Teemu is probably smiling of relief after The Comeback Kids pulled another incredible comeback win on a day that would be engraved in his memory.
Taking a Picture with the Banner
I will forever hold a grudge against my working adult life for the fact that I could not get back to the Honda Center in time to take a once-in-a-lifetime picture with the Great 8 banner.
Fortunately, our very own editor Chris was there to pounce on this golden opportunity.
Last but certainly not least....
And finally...I will leave you with this picture. While the most well-circulated picture of this For8ver Teemu night has been the one found on NHL.com or the front page of the Sports sections...the picture with Teemu standing in front of the bright lights highlighting his rising number 8 banner, with all background blacked out only to be speckled with shining LED lights....It's basically the picture I took myself that I used to head this post.
BUT I have to say, that my favorite picture has to be the following....I mean come on folks...like really...can we talk about how amazing this is?
That ladies and gentlemen, is the same poster as the poster held in Winnipeg Teemu's rookie year when he broke Mike Bossy's record....If you look REALLY closely, you can see that the banner is actually signed by Teemu. Funny right?
This picture says it all. This is what For8ver Teemu Night was all about--bringing together Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg, Finland, hockey fans together--to celebrate Teemu Selanne's past feats as well as the individual he became to the game of hockey.
Let the memories live on for8ver.