LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -- In the summer of 2007, Teemu Selanne didn't even know where he had stashed his hockey gear. In the garage? In Finland?
He knew he was done. He was convinced. Selanne could see the second act of life that F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said did not exist.
"Then I rented ice at Anaheim Ice and skated by myself and said, 'This is so stupid,'" Selanne said.
Selanne made a bet with a goalie friend, Jeff Brown. If he scored on Brown at least five times out of 10 breakaways, he would return.
GP: 1451 | +/-: 95
It convinced Selanne to keep going … and going … and going. Every summer since he won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 brought dalliances with retirement, which he laughed at in the form of four 20-goal seasons, two of them after he turned 40.
But the end is here.
Selanne will retire after 21 seasons with a legacy as one of the great ambassadors of hockey. He completed a career that began with him as a fresh-faced kid with the Winnipeg Jets to a father of four kids and the greatest player in Ducks history after finishing the 2013-14 season with a Game 7 loss in the Western Conference Second Round to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.
"I knew it would either be a big party or a big disappointment. It's a big disappointment," Selanne, who will turn 44 on July 3, said after the game.
Weeks before the end arrived, Selanne held court with a handful of local beat writers who have covered him since he came to Anaheim in 1996. Over beet ravioli and prime rib at his steakhouse, Selanne spoke at length about his career and his second act; he even mixed in some previously untold stories, such as the aforementioned shootout.
Selanne's transition to Anaheim and Southern California was seamless, given his preference for the warmer weather and his people-loving personality, starting from that first day at a Residence Inn by Marriott near Disneyland.
"I remember the first morning when I woke up here," he said. "It was 80 degrees. I was eating breakfast outside and I look [and think], 'This is my kind of place.'
"[My son] Eemil was 10 days old when it was their first trip [to Disneyland]. It was so funny because a couple of days before I got traded, my wife asked if I was ever going to take her to Disneyland. I said, 'For sure, someday.' Then when I got traded, I came home and said, 'Now you can go there every day.'"
Selanne took to the area so well he settled into a house in the secluded, gated community of Coto de Caza, centered around a golf course in south Orange County. The family speaks Finnish at home, but his kids have no accent and are like most other American kids, to the point where Selanne never wanted to uproot them from their friends by moving.
"My life is here now," he said.
Selanne said his kids laugh at his accent.
"Plus, we have a little secret language with the girls," he said. "I always have to remind them when we go to Finland. We landed in Frankfurt and I said, 'Now, remember, there's a lot of Finnish people here, so don't say exactly what you're thinking.'"
Selanne did leave Anaheim, in 2001, and it remains a sore point because of how it was done. Selanne said Pierre Gauthier, Anaheim's general manager at the time, told him he had shopped Selanne around but nothing came close to what Gauthier wanted for him.
Four days later, Gauthier traded Selanne to the San Jose Sharks for left wing Jeff Friesen, goalie Steve Shields and future considerations. At the time of the trade, Selanne led the Ducks in scoring and had developed a dynamic partnership with center Paul Kariya. Steve Rucchin played left wing to form one of the most entertaining lines in Anaheim history.
"[Anahiem senior manager of hockey operations ] Maureen [Norvall] called me," Selanne said, adding Gauthier never reached out to him. "I don't think I spoke to Pierre after."
Selanne said he had mostly healthy relationships with all his coaches over the years - "90 percent of my coaches have been great coaches" - and couldn't ignore winning the Stanley Cup under Randy Carlyle. He had a sometimes tenuous time with Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who limited Selanne's ice time in his final season, even after Selanne was MVP of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
One coach who would seem to fit in that 10 percent is former San Jose and current Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter, a gruff personality who favors a muck-and-grind defensive game as opposed to Selanne's freewheeling style. But Selanne liked Sutter.
"It was so funny," he said. "He tried to be so tough. My boys were 6 and 4. I always took them to practice. Darryl always had a soft spot for the kids. Every time my boys came, he always took them into the office and gave candies and stuff. So a lot of times when we lost, we played terrible, so my teammates came and said, 'Hey, make sure you bring your kids.' He tried to be in a bad mood, but then he saw my boys. It was like sunshine."
Selanne finished with 684 regular-season goals and 44 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two stand out: Goal No. 54, which broke Mike Bossy's rookie record on March 2, 1993, and the overtime goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference Final.
That is probably the most important goal in Ducks history because it gave them a 3-2 series lead going back to Anaheim. That was the series the Ducks had to win in order to get the Cup Final. Two years prior, Selanne's career was saved by the 2004-05 lockout, when he used the time to have knee surgery. His closest brush to retirement came in the summer of 2011, when he had a setback from arthroscopic knee surgery.
"When I woke up in surgery, my doctor said, 'You're done. There's no way you can play in this league anymore,'" Selanne recalled. "I said, 'You're serious?' And then he showed me the pictures. I already told my family, 'This is it.'"
Instead, Selanne played three more seasons, the fire within him burning even as his legs and hands slowed. He spoke to other players who told him they retired too early, and he didn't want to leave that way. Selanne watched former teammates Kariya, Chris Pronger and Andy McDonald end their careers because of concussions and swore to himself he would go out on his own terms.
"I think a lot of players, they give up too early if something went wrong," he said. "So I'd rather not do that than play longer than you should. At least you know then that there's no passion. Because the worst thing is if you regret that you still wanted to play."
Selanne isn't sure what he will do in retirement, but he knows he will work with the Ducks. He doesn't want to travel, so he could take a similar role as retired defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who assists with the defense but rarely goes on the road. Selanne has many off-ice interests, such as his restaurant and his car collection. He can also spend more time with his family.
Selanne defied time for so long. Can he defy Fitzgerald?
Asked if he needs a new challenge similar to hockey, Selanne responded, "That's a good question. I think, at some point, I want to start doing something to get the same feeling. I'm going to be busy anyway, but I don't know how much."