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Passion for game big part of what makes Teemu tick

Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 4:52 PM / Player Profiles

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Passion for game big part of what makes Teemu tick
Teemu Selanne is 41 years old, but he's playing like a superstar in the middle of his prime. The Ducks forward says having fun coming to the rink every day has been the key to his continued success.
NEW YORK -- What makes Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne go?

"Well, I usually have some oatmeal or cereal every morning for breakfast," Selanne told NHL.com with a grin. "To be honest, there are no secrets."

While inhaling plenty of fiber in the early-morning hours may play a part, it can't be the sole reason. After all, it's remarkable what the 41-year-old "Finnish Flash" has been able to accomplish in the twilight of his career.

"I would never have imagined to be playing this long, but I'm still having fun and I always said I'll try to play as long as I'm healthy and having fun," Selanne said following a recent Ducks practice at Chelsea Piers. "It's fun to come to the rink every day, win or lose. If you look at this as a job, it's too tough, so I think this has to be our kind of hobby.

"Obviously, we get paid very well to do this, but that's the key. When you started playing when you were 7 years old, it was about the passion for the game, and it is still about the passion."

Selanne certainly exhibits the drive and determination of a player in his teens, never mind his 40s. He still can skate like the wind and find open areas on the ice. He leads the team with 9 assists, 14 points and 40 shots.

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Selanne had a hand in all four Ducks goals in Tuesday's overtime loss in Washington, scoring a pair and assisting on the others. He became the oldest player to score 4 points in an NHL game since Jan. 15, 1972, when legendary defenseman Tim Horton, just three days past his 42nd birthday, recorded 4 assists for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Besides Selanne and Horton, the only NHL player to score 4 points in one game at such an advanced age was Gordie Howe, who did it three times.

"When you see him get a step on people, they don't catch him," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Those are the things you marvel at. We see so much of it that it's almost like you expect it. But he's 41 years old, racing out there and playing a very physical type of game, up-tempo game, that suits him so well."

It's hard to believe that Selanne actually first considered retirement after he and the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Over the next four seasons, however, he'd produce 97 goals and 205 points in 218 games. Selanne had 31 goals and 80 points in 73 games last season.

"Teemu is always hungry for the puck around the net," linemate and countryman Saku Koivu told NHL.com. "In a way, he's a step ahead of the other players and always thinking where he could go to get open for a scoring chance. The one thing that's pretty remarkable is how he still has the skating ability to get open and be that fast at that age. You usually slow down as you get older, but I haven't seen that in Teemu."

Selanne ranks 13th in the league with 641 career goals. His 4-point night gave him 1,354, moving him past Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur and into a tie with Brendan Shanahan for 24th place in League history.

Selanne feels being smart on and off the ice are the keys to a successful hockey career.

"Obviously, you have to pay attention to what you do, and the balance between rest and work has to be better," Selanne said. "Things have to be done much better as you get older; being smarter with food and fluids and massage and stretching. The biggest difference is the recovery … that's what you really have to pay attention to. If you can do all those things, be healthy and have enough passion and have fun, good things usually happen."

Carlyle admits he sees that passion in Selanne's eyes every practice and game. And, yes, he's still having a grand old time.

"It's one thing to make a statement and another thing to live it, and Teemu lives it," Carlyle said. "That's what you want your leaders to do … live it every day and every game. There are some games when he's not going to have it, but it's not for a lack of effort. It might be a little frustration or having the puck roll away versus rolling to him, but he comes to play every night."

At this point, there's no telling how many more years Selanne will continue to lace on the blades. He said this would be his last season but then again, he's been saying that for some time now.

"This is it," Selanne told NHL.com when asked how much longer he'll continue. "I think it's the last one … just like I said last time."

After undergoing left knee surgery in Finland last summer, it was believed Selanne's days in the NHL finally were numbered. But in September, he signed a one-year, $4 million contract to remain with the Ducks.

Does Carlyle believe this is Selanne's final season?

"You'd have to ask him, but he surprises us all the time," Carlyle said. "When he stops having fun and he feels his level of contribution is dropping, then I think he'll seriously consider retirement. He's still a pretty special player; he remains front and center for us."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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