A lot has changed in Teemu Selanne's life in the five years since he retired from the NHL, but on this particular Tuesday evening at Honda Center, this much was the same as always. There was Teemu being adored by a seemingly endless throng of fans, meticulously taking the time to acknowledge every last one of them.
On this occasion it was a book signing outside the Ducks Team Store, where Selanne was seated at a table autographing copies of his book, My Life, as well as pretty much anything else fans put in front of him. The record-setting Finnish bestseller was recently translated into English and was available for sale to fans who wanted to get Selanne's inscription inside it.
Along with that sweeping signature he practiced meticulously as a kid and has performed countless times since ("millions" by his own estimation) over the last three decades, Selanne of course added his number 8 and the year 2019, along with any personalization fans asked him to tack onto it.
When he had a few seconds, Selanne talked about what life has been like lately, which wasn't easy since he personally acknowledged every fan who approached, made small talk, ensured he had their names spelled right for the inscriptions, posed for pictures and … pretty much was just being typical enchanting Teemu.
If it seemed like a dozen different things were going on at the same time, such has been life in retirement for Selanne. He and wife Sirpa have been traveling a lot, whether it's to their native Finland - where they recently spent three months straight - to Dallas to see son Leevi play with the NA3HL Texas Jr. Brahamas or to the Boston area to see son Eetu play at Curry College. When he's home, he's surfing with Paul Kariya in the mornings, playing golf or tennis in the afternoons, taking in the occasional Ducks game and spending time at home with daughter Veera and oldest son Eemil.
"Retirement has been exactly what I thought it would be," Selanne says. "It's been a little busier than I thought. There are so many fun things I have time to do now, I actually have to say 'No' for a lot of fun stuff. The best thing by far is that I can manage my own time."
That also includes keeping tabs on two of his restaurants, the incredibly popular Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach and the recently opened The Penalty Box, which is part of the SteelCraft Garden Grove, a food hall built from shipping containers.
"Jokingly, I tell my friends that I want to have a problem that when I wake up, I have a hard decision on what to do today," he says. "So far that's been happening, and it's great."
He wants to be able to dedicate more time working with the Ducks organization but says, "It's another career, another commitment. I can't do anything halfway."
That's noticeable during Selanne's time with the fans, how much he was insistent on going above and beyond just a quick sweep of the pen and moving on to the next customer (though the security people would probably prefer he did it that way). When a fan would approach holding a Selanne jersey over their arm, he would ask if he had signed it yet (even though he was just there to sign books). Several times throughout the night he would say, "I don't want there to be a number 8 jersey in the building tonight I haven't signed."
One woman came up to his table wearing a shirt adorned with the logo for Jokerit, the Finnish junior team where he began his professional career. "I like that shirt," he said to her. "Where did you get that?"
With just two kids at home for the time being, the Selannes are looking to sell the Coto de Caza house they've lived in for 19 years. "It's a big place, and we just need the right buyers," he says. "We don't need seven acres and a horse anymore."
But there are no plans to leave Southern California, and in fact the plan is to find another place in the same town once the sale goes through. "I love to be active, and you can do that in Southern California," says Selanne, who is noticeably tanner than he was in his playing days. "You can surf in the morning, play golf or tennis later in the day or drive two hours and go ski. You can't beat that."
A middle-aged man comes up to the table asking if Teemu will sign his book with, To my No. 1 fan, Ron and then adds, "Because I am. You're amazing." (And it makes one wonder just how many of Teemu's "No. 1 fans" there are out there.)
Another fan asks if Teemu will sign a book, To Papa. "He couldn't be here because he's too old," the fan says, "but you've done a lot for him." Selanne of course obliges and tells the fan to say hello for him.
Selanne won't have much time to catch the action on the ice tonight, but he and 23-year-old Eemil watch pretty much every Ducks game on TV. "He's still a huge Ducks fan," Selanne says. "That's our thing to do together."
Video: Teemu Selanne Doppelganger at Ducks Game
He makes it out to the occasional game at Honda Center, with the crowd predictably going crazy whenever he's shown on the video board in the arena. He jokes that when he looks out onto the ice, he thinks he can still play "15 or 16 minutes a night, no problem" even though he'll turn 50 next July.
"The older you get," he quips, "the better you think you were."
He follows that up with another trademark hearty Teemu laugh, then turns to the next fan in line. It's a little boy who tentatively asks if Teemu will sign his book. "Absolutely, absolutely," he says with a big smile. "How old are you? Seven? Are you a first grader or second grader? You're a big boy."
The boy's mother tells Teemu her son was playing less baseball to get more into hockey. "What's more fun, baseball or hockey?" he asks. When he's told hockey, he replies, "That's my boy. Yeah, let's take a picture."