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Teemu Selanne & Paul Kariya: Anaheim's Original Dynamic Duo

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So here lies the tale of a friendship that began on the ice and continues on to this day off the ice.

The Good Ol' Days
The Good Ol' Days

Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya make up one of my fondest personal childhood memories. My younger brother and I would clear off the carpet of our room and crouch on opposite sides of the room preparing to battle it out. My dad bought my brother the white Selanne mini stick and bought me a teal Kariya stick. So in a rare moment, the pair would be separated and forced to duke it out on the carpet of our household. I'm pretty our fair share of slashing resulted in the premature deaths of both now-collectors items. But this is a memory that is shared by many young Ducks fans that grew up watching the Dynamic Duo on the ice.

Before there were "The Twins" of the Anaheim Ducks, there were Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne of the Mighty Ducks.

The mere mention of the name "Paul Kariya" still brings up strong reactions in all Anaheim fans--anger or nostalgia, resentment or wishfulness. You are probably be asking why are we stir up mixed emotions during a week honoring Teemu Selanne....Well, we really cannot tell the story of the Great 8 without mentioning the number 9. If you asked Teemu himself, he could not deny the utmost importance and crucial presence of Paul Kariya in and throughout his long NHL career.

Selanne invited only one player to his last regular season game last season:
"I talked one hour on the phone with him. I said, 'I don't take no for an answer.' He was the only player I really invited. He has meant so much to me all my best years and the chemistry I've had with him." So whether you may still hold a grudge against Kariya for his tenuous exit from Anaheim and his refusal to return, he is an undeniable and pivotal part of the Teemu Selanne legacy. While Teemu Selanne is one of NHL's most notable and greatest players, who knows how his saga would have played if it had not been for his fellow left winger Paul Kariya.

Paul Kariya, the original Mighty Duck

Paul Kariya was selected fourth overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by one of the league's two expansion teams, your's truly, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Coming into Anaheim, he already touted an impressive resume having been the first freshman in history to win the notable Hobey Baker Award. He did not make his NHL debut until 1995, but when he did, he was among the rookie scoring leaders and finished third in the Calder voting to Peter Forsberg (fair enough) and Jim Carey "The Net Detective" (how about those '90s, eh?). He alone represented the Mighty Ducks in the 1996 All-Star Game. But despite the up and rising shining star, the Mighty Ducks struggled immensely and finished last in the Western Conference.  Paul bore much of the offensive burden and needed support that equaled his skill and talent.

Enter Teemu Selanne.

The Finnish Flash comes to Town

Steve Rucchin commented on the acquisition, "Paul had a lot of pressure on him....He single-handedly won some games for us this year....Now that we have Teemu, there's no way everybody can just key on Paul." Teemu Selanne, the real reason for this very post--arrived in Anaheim after being traded from the Winnipeg Jets in 1996. Like Kariya, Selanne arrived into the Anaheim hockey club with an equally impressive resume. Originally drafted in 1988 by the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne didn't make his NHL debut until 1992. And what a debut it was...as you all probably know and we discussed yesterday, he took the NHL by storm by scoring an NHL-record of 76 goals, winning him the Calder Memorial Trophy.

Despite initially being upset by the trade, Selanne soon grew comfortable and found himself at home in Anaheim. A lot of that quick transition had to do with finding his soul line-mate in Paul Kariya. Centered by Rucchin, Selanne and Kariya soon became one of the league's most lethal combinations on the ice. For several seasons, the two formed one of the league's most high-scoring pairs.

A Quick History

"We had a chemistry that you don't find very often and the best thing was we were both in our primes. We thought about the game the same way. We wanted to do everything fast and take advantage of turnovers." - Teemu Selanne

Together they pushed for the Mighty Ducks' first playoff appearance. They both earned multiple NHL All-Star distinctions. Setting franchise records, the duo put the Mighty Ducks on the map.  It's difficult to put into words how the two worked together and created their magic, especially for those of us who were young and/or new to the game at the time.  We can try to compare them to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry or Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but that doesn't really do them justice.  The highlights speak for themselves.

But in 2001, Selanne was traded to the San Jose Sharks, marking the end of the Kariya-Selanne era in Anaheim.

To the distress and utter disbelief of so many fans, after spending nine seasons in Anaheim, Kariya too left the Ducks as a UFA in 2003. But with Selanne also a UFA, they reunited and agreed to sign together with the Colorado Avalanche on 1-year contracts. Paul quoted, "I loved it in Anaheim. People there were fantastic to me and the organization. Obviously, the guys were a fantastic group of guys....But I looked at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Teemu and I decided this is going to be a great place for us to play, and we're really happy with the decision."

Unfortunately, the spark did not ignite between the two and injuries took their toll on the production of both players. Following the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, the pair split up once again-Selanne returning to Anaheim and Kariya venturing out to Nashville.

The rest is history. As we know, the season in Colorado would be the final season in which the two would skate in the same sweater.

Kariya went on to sign with the St. Louis Blues after leaving Nashville. But nagging injuries and post-concussion symptoms would force the gifted hockey player into early retirement. The NHL history books closed prematurely on  Kariya and all we can do is wonder what could have been if not for the numerous hits he took.

Selanne on the other hand continued to sign "one more year" with the Anaheim Ducks. Unlike his counterpart, Selanne's career found rejuvenation and more importantly, a legacy in Anaheim. He played in a total of 10 NHL All-Star games, represented and led Finland in six Olympic appearances (winning three bronze and a silver), and finally won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Despite the split between the pair, they never stopped talking hockey and life. Teemu continued to lobby for his friend. Back in 2010, Teemu tried to convince GM Bob Murray to sign Paul to a deal. "All the years I played with Paul it was so much fun and it would be nice to play together again." But just as discussions began, they were abruptly halted when Paul was forced to retire by doctors orders.

Two Halves of a Perfect Whole

"I've been very lucky that I've been playing with unbelievable players, pretty much my whole career. But nothing has been even close to playing with Paul. Everything was so easy. We played the same way. We were thinking the same way about the game. It was just like unbelievable." - Teemu Selanne

Teemu and Paul were two halves of a perfect whole on and off the ice.

On the ice, they were perfect reflections, each a half of the whole. Selanne reflected last year, "I always believe in that chemistry. We did every drill together. Even our teammates were laughing. If we had the same drill, they always said, 'OK, you guys go first.' We were talking after every shift, after every game to try and get better. That's how you create some magic." They were amazingly gifted hockey players individually, but together, they made magic.  They connected on the ice, running drills together before practice before the rest of the teammates got on the ice, they reviewed after each shift constantly looking to improve, and all this culminated into what seemed like a mind reading between the two. I mean, the highlight reels for the two of them still stir up awe and disbelief. Selanne-Kariya pairing is a prime example of the existence of ESP a match-made by the hockey gods in hockey heaven. They were both highly motivated competitive players who only strove to be the best. Practice never stopped for the two.

With the exception of big-hearted philanthropy and charities for children, off the ice, Teemu and Paul each had completely different approaches to personal life and public image. Where Teemu was warm and easy-going, Paul was cold and reserved. Teemu smiled, Paul became "glacial." Teemu waited until every last fan had an autograph or photo, while Paul would slip out unnoticed through the players tunnel. Teemu embraced the light of publicity, while Paul stayed in the shadows.

Teemu Selanne may be one of the greats of hockey history, but he is equally as well-known for his generosity and affability off the ice. He is well-known to never turn away a fan for an autograph or photo. There are stories of Teemu driving home from practice, and stopping to step out into the pouring rain after seeing a kid waiting outside of Honda Center for his hero. He never failed to throw pucks to kids (and adults) during warm-ups. There are endless amounts of personal encounters with the Finn, and he is always smiling and willing to put up with the fandom. This is the quintessential Teemu quote: "My personality...I like to meet the people. I like to talk to people. It's the way I was raised at home. It's the easiest part of my job. To give a couple minutes to someone who wants an autograph, really it's not a big deal."

As light-hearted and affable Teemu was regarding life, Paul took a different approach. While some claim him to be arrogant, while others will say he is simply shy....One fact is for certain, Paul Kariya was extremely reserved and remains to be the same way to this very day. Whether it be in front of reporters or in the locker room, Kariya was not known to be a talker. He never stuck around after practice to give autographs or to mingle. Unlike his generous counterpart, Kariya's concerns with profit-mongering autograph seekers led him to struggle in believing the requests of fans. Fans even wrote written letters complaining about his attitude. And this is the quintessential Paul quote: "But no matter what I do, I'll never please everybody. I don't lose any sleep."

It really seems as if Teemu is the epitome of all that Paul is not off the ice. But rather than being opposites, Teemu and Paul have a sort of Yin-Yang relationship that creates the support they each need.

8 & 9

When Teemu inevitably faced criticism during the steep decline of production last season, he reached out to his old linemate. Kariya texted: "Go to the net, good things happen." Taking this small piece of advice, Teemu finally broke his 19-game scoring drought that night. After the game, Selanne said, "He knows...Maybe I haven't done that enough. When you're used to scoring those pretty goals, sometimes you don't go to those ugly areas. You have to remind yourself where the goals are, that blue paint." Or maybe he needed a friend to remind him.

A quiet and low-key OC resident, Kariya disappeared from the hockey world the day he retired. He refuses to talk about retiring his number despite Selanne's efforts. He successfully avoided the Honda Center completely - that is until he received a call from Teemu last year. He attended Selanne's last regular season game and watched the final laps he shared with J.S. Giguere.

It has been long since Kariya and Selanne skated on the same line, but the bond hasn't dissipated: "I think he's actually going to play longer. I don't know why he's talking about this retirement stuff...I think they have to play him more. It is funny: When we talked this year, there were times when he just wants to be on the ice more and more power-play time. That's what I'm talking about with the passion and the drive. He still has that determination to be the best and to help the team win hockey games. He feels like he can do more and I believe him."

I believe him.

The emphasis these days when looking at Kariya and Selanne is the comparison made between the two personalities. But in doing so, we miss the impact of the duo had upon the NHL and upon each other. Neither player is playing anymore, but the history they created as Mighty Ducks continue to resonate through the NHL. Colorado Avalanche's Matt Duchene described the impact the two players had on him as an 8-year old: "They were two of the nicest people you could meet. I can still remember how nice they were, how they made me feel. And now, I want to be able to do the same thing. When you meet someone, regardless of the circumstance, you just want to put a smile on their face. That's important to me." The pair may no longer play, but thanks to their example, bits and pieces of their gentlemanly conduct lives on within future generations of players.

Hockey still remains central for Teemu and his family and it seems as if the final page on hockey has turned for Paul. But despite Paul's bitter ending in the NHL, Teemu continues to rally for his friend to come out  shadows and share himself to the hockey world: "I need to talk to him, find some way to get him back with the Ducks' family. Obviously he was the number one star here. He has a lot to give to this organization." If Teemu was able to convince Paul to return to Honda Center, who knows what the future holds....*wishful thinking*

So while both players have officially retired from the NHL, the real Selanne-Kariya saga never truly ended.