by Alli Baker
On May 16, 2014, the Teemu Selanne era came to an end when the Anaheim Ducks fell in an emotional Game 7 to the Los Angeles Kings, 6-2. Although the Kings had just won a spot in the NHL Western Conference semi-finals, the end of Selanne’s career took everyone’s attention over the King’s victory.
After the end of the game, the Kings and Ducks players stayed on the ice and tapped their sticks in a salute to Selanne as he said his final farewell to the Anaheim crowd. While the 43-year old fell short of winning a second Stanley Cup, Selanne by no means fell short of putting together an impressive NHL career.
The sure-fire future Hall of Famer began his career playing for the Finnish junior league team, Jokerit. After spending three years in the development program, Selanne ended his junior career in 1987-1988 with a junior-A championship and an impressive 43 goals and 66 points in 33 games. 1 His notable performance sparked the interest of the Winnipeg Jets, who then selected Selanne tenth overall, in the 1988 NHL amateur draft.
After being drafted, Selanne continued playing in Finland with SM-Liiga until he was signed to a North American contract with the Jets in 1992. From there, he began an incredible twenty-one year NHL career. He played his first NHL game on October 6, 1992 against the Detroit Red Wings.
Nicknamed the “Finnish Flash” because of his speed and agility, Selanne quickly proved himself in his first few games in the NHL. The rookie collected his first career hat trick just five games into his professional career. He went on to score 76 goals, including four hat tricks and one four-goal game. 2 Selanne broke the National Hockey League record for most goals scored by a rookie, earning himself the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top freshman in the NHL.
He was also a first-time All-Star, and was chosen for the All-Star team another nine times over the course of his career. Though Winnipeg lost in the first round of the playoffs, Selanne collected six points in six games. He maintained consistent play throughout the next three years with the Jets, reaching 100 career goals in 1994, in only 130 NHL games. Only the New York Islanders’ Mike Bossy was faster to reach that milestone.
Unfortunately, after that feat was accomplished, Selanne tore his Achilles tendon and was forced to sit out the last 33 games of the 1994 season. He finished with just 25 goals on the season. The 1994-1995 NHL lockout the following year caused Selanne to return back to his native Finland for half a season, where he played for Jokerit Helsinki-Finland and was named tournament All-Star when the team won the 1995 European Cup.
Once the lockout ended, Selanne returned to the Jets, but was traded halfway through the season to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Upon hearing of the trade, Selanne was apparently furious. According to the Seattle Times, he stormed out of practice and ripped the nameplate off from above his locker. He left Winnipeg Arena without talking to reporters. 3 Although it took time to adjust to the trade, Selanne later said that it was the best thing to happen to his career.
In his first stint with the Ducks (from the 1995-1996 season into the 2000-2001 season), Selanne scored 225 goals and had two 50+ goal seasons. His performance led to five All-Star appearances, chief among them the the 1998 All-Star game, where he became the first European to score a hat trick and to be voted Most Valuable Player. The 1998 season also saw Selanne win the inaugural Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy for the league’s highest goal scorer (47). 4
At the 2000-2001 trade deadline, Selanne was sent to the San Jose Sharks for two players and a draft choice. He fell just short of 30 goals the next two seasons and left the west coast for a free agent deal with the Colorado Avalanche. The 33-year old struggled for the better part of the season, scoring only 16 goals (and 16 assists) in 78 games. After failing to win a Cup in Colorado and being placed on the fourth line for most of the season, Selanne took the 2004-2005 lockout year off from hockey to recover and then came back with the Ducks for the 2005-2006 season.
A revitalized Selanne scored 40 or more goals for two straight seasons and notched his 1,000th career point. He also joined Jari Kurri as the only Finnish-born players to score 500 goals, when he accomplished that feat in 2006. Selanne than took part in what every NHL player dreams of: a Stanley Cup championship. The 2007 Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators for the franchise’s first title. After 14 seasons and a Stanley Cup win, Selanne contemplated retirement annually, but continued to play with the Ducks for another seven seasons. He finally decided that the 21st season of his career would be his last in the NHL.
The 43-year old Selanne, a fan favorite in Anaheim, received a standing ovation and the first, second, and third star in his final regular season game against the Avalanche. The Ducks organization later announced that Selanne’s number 8 would be the first number retired by the franchise.
Selanne’s illustrious career wasn’t limited to his NHL accomplishments. Internationally, the Finn played in six Olympic games and holds the records for most points scored in the Olympics. He is also the oldest player to medal in Olympic Ice Hockey after he picked up a bronze medal this past winter at age 43.
Outside of hockey, Selanne is a collector of cars and has entered the World Rally Championship two times. He is also the owner of a Laguna Beach restaurant and the previous owner of four establishments in Finland. In his native country, he is the focus of a biographical film, “Sel8nne”, which looks at his life in and out of the NHL.
And because Teemu Selanne is apparently capable of doing just about everything, he was a kindergarten teacher before he began his hockey career.
Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, he was also voted Sexiest Man Alive in Finland by the magazine “Eeva.” 5. Way to go, Teemu. That’s the life of a legend.