In celebration of the Anaheim Ducks’ 25th anniversary, Anaheim Calling is ranking the top 25 Ducks of all time.
No. 1: Wednesday, Oct. 3
Number 1: Teemu Selanne
February 7, 1996, a date that will forever stand as one of the most significant days in Anaheim Ducks franchise history. On that day, then Mighty Ducks General Manager Jack Ferreira made a trade that would forever change the Southern California hockey club. In a move that sent Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky, and a 3rd round pick in the upcoming draft, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks received Mark Chouinard, a 4th round pick in the coming draft, and future NHL Hall of Fame inductee, Teemu Selanne.
Drafted 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1988, Teemu Selanne was an electrifying player from the day he came into the NHL and one of the greatest to ever play the game. In his rookie season, Teemu scored 76 goals and 132 points to not just break both the rookie goal-scoring and points records, but smash them to pieces.
He received the Calder trophy for his phenomenal rookie campaign. Before migrating West for the rest of his career, Selanne managed to add another 71 goals and 174 points in his final 147 games as a Winnipeg Jet.
Now, considering this is an article about who we consider to be the greatest player to every don a Ducks (or Mighty Ducks) jersey, the most important part is obviously going to be the player’s tenure in Anaheim. And Selanne’s time in Southern California was nothing if not amazing.
Right from the start, Selanne’s trade to Anaheim consummated one of the holiest unions in all of hockey history as the Finnish Flash joined then Mighty Ducks captain Paul Kariya. These two speedsters were a match made in heaven and became one of the most feared tandems to ever skate in the NHL. Both players speed and skill complimented each other so well and it showed.
While Teemu and Paul’s time together in Anaheim didn’t have the storybook ending most would have hoped for, with Selanne was traded to the San Jose Sharks during the 2000-2001 season, the Dynamic Duo made their mark on hockey history in the time they had together. The two will always be mentioned in the same breath as Gretzky and Kurri, and for good reason. Their time together was one of the most successful stretches of Teemu’s career as he registered a whopping 225 goals and 257 points in 394 games (that’s a 1.22 PPG pace) in the heart of the Dead Puck Era.
During their time together, Teemu recorded his only set of back-to-back 50-goal-campaigns in the ‘96-’97 and ‘97-’98 seasons as well as capturing the inaugural Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading regular season goal-scorer in 1999. Selanne was also a 5-time NHL All-Star during that stretch.
After being traded in 2001, Teemu spent parts of 4 seasons in San Jose and Colorado before returning to his rightful home in Anaheim. Still without his name on the greatest trophy in sports, Selanne returned to the eggplant and jade after the ‘04-’05 lockout looking to rebound from an uncharacteristically low-scoring season brought on by knee problems in Colorado where the Finnish Flash recorded a meager 32 points in 78 games.
The Flash seemed reinvigorated in his return to Orange County following knee surgery and an entire year to rehab, as Selanne was impressive in ‘05-’06 (40 goals, 90 points). That season saw Teemu get the closest he had ever been to the Stanley Cup as the Mighty Ducks returned to the playoffs and made an impressive run to the Western Conference Final before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in five games, with Selanne contributing 6 goals and 14 points during that run. He also took home the Masterton trophy that season.
The year that followed was what Teemu had worked his whole life for. Anaheim came into the 2006-2007 season hungry from their Conference Final elimination and looking fresh after a full rebrand of the franchise. And though the sweater may have been new, it was the same old Teemu underneath. The Flash followed up his first 90-point season in 7 years with another one (94 points) to propel Anaheim to a Pacific Division title and the second seed in the Western Conference. Despite Vancouver forcing 3 OT games in the Western Conference Semifinal, Anaheim was really not tested too much as they finished the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a combined 10 games.
Then came the real test, the Detroit Red Wings. One of Anaheim biggest rivals with the two squads meeting many a time in the postseason, the Western Conference first seed was looking to move past Anaheim to the Finals. Through 4 games of the Conference Final, the two Western heavyweights were locked at 2 games apiece and Game 5 was Teemu’s time to shine. Late in the third with Detroit leading 1-0, Anaheim elected to pull their goaltender to try and tie the game. Pressing the issue in the final minute of the third, Scott Niedermayer found magic off the sticks of Selanne and Chris Pronger. A slick feed from Selanne to Niedermayer in-between the circles set the captain up to push home the tying goal to send Game 5 to overtime and prepare Selanne for one of the most important goals of his career.
I think for this one, I’ll just let the highlight speak for itself.
Andy McDonald with the heads-up play and Teemu with the slick backhander to silence Detroit and send the series back to Anaheim with a lead. In my opinion this is the greatest goal to date in Ducks history, and it’s only fitting that the greatest to ever don a Ducks sweater was the one to score it. Anaheim went home and finished off Detroit in Game 6 to head to their second ever Stanley Cup Final.
While Selanne’s goal-scoring prowess wasn’t on display in the Finals, it was nonetheless the crowning achievement of an amazing career. Teemu recorded 3 assists in his sole Stanley Cup Final and Anaheim captured their first championship. At the age of 36, 14 years into an already phenomenal NHL career, the Finnish Flash was finally a Stanley Cup champion and the emotion on the salty veteran’s face was palpable.
Following the Stanley Cup victory, Selanne struggled with injuries for a few years but still managed to push through and play another 7 NHL seasons despite speculation that he may retire on top after the Stanley Cup. While Selanne wasn’t the same player after 2007, Teemu still racked up another 144 goals and 322 points in 410 games post-Stanley Cup.
Finally retiring at the “ripe old age” of 43, Selanne ended his career as one of the most prolific scorers in NHL history: 11th in goals (684), 38th in assists (773), and 15th in points (1457) in 1451 career NHL games. In Ducks history, Selanne ranks #1 in games played (966), goals (457), points (988), game-winning goals (77), and many, many more (second all-time in assists with 531). Selanne was also selected to 4 All-Star games in his career.
Another thing I would be remiss not to mention is Teemu’s stellar international career as a representative of Finland. In six appearances at the Winter Olympics, the Finnish Flash recorded 24 goals and 19 assists for a total of 43 points, the most by any man in Olympic Ice Hockey ever. While never taking home the gold medal, Selanne still managed to secure two Olympic bronze medals, one silver medal, and a 2014 Olympic MVP award for his trophy case.
Selanne’s final two honors came after the end of his NHL career. First, less than a year after his retirement, Teemu Selanne’s #8 became the first number to be raised to the rafters of Honda Center. Only fitting that such a legendary and iconic player for the Ducks franchise be the first to get the highest honor from the franchise. Finally, to follow up getting the highest honor from the franchise he played for almost his entire career, Teemu received the highest honor of all and joined his idol Jari Kurri in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017. Teemu’s induction was extra special thanks to the fact that he was inducted alongside his old partner-in-crime, Paul Kariya.
In the end, Teemu Selanne will forever be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game. From his lethal scoring ability to his humble and friendly demeanor, Teemu has been the pinnacle of talent and class since the day he entered the NHL and continues to be one of the greatest ambassadors of the game. Selanne was a man who forever changed the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks franchise and Southern California hockey forever. The Flash will always be an Anaheim icon and I certainly count myself lucky to have been able to witness his career. Truly an all-time great and, in our opinion, the #1 Duck of all-time.