By Kyle Shohara
One of the most iconic figures in hockey and the most beloved player in franchise history will take center stage tonight, as the Ducks honor the legendary career of The Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne. The special pregame ceremony will include the raising of Selanne’s No. 8 jersey to the rafters at Honda Center. Fans attending tonight’s game are encouraged to be in their seats by 4:15 to witness the first retirement ceremony in franchise history.
Selanne finished his Ducks career as the franchise’s all-time leader in almost every offensive category, including goals (457), assists (531), points (988), plus/minus (+120), games (966), power-play goals (182), game-winning goals (77), overtime goals (6) and shots (2,964). He’s also the club playoff leader in goals (35), PPG (15), GWG (8), shots (274) and games (96). Selanne helped lead Anaheim to California’s first Stanley Cup championship in 2007, was named the inaugural Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner in 1998-99 and won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy Winner in 2005-06, all as a member of the Ducks. Selanne began his NHL career in Winnipeg, collecting 306 points (147g/159a) with 87 penalty minutes in 231 games prior to his trade to Anaheim on Feb. 7, 1996.
Selanne, now 44 years of age, left an indelible mark on the franchise, its fans, and its players. Current Ducks, including Selanne’s former linemate Patrick Maroon, spoke of his impact on- and off the ice.
“He’s a big role model, and a class act on and off the ice,” said Maroon. “He’s the definition of a professional. He shows up, does everything right and always has a smile on his face. He works hard, and he’s always the first one on the ice and last one off.
“I took a lot of stuff out of his book. It’s going to be a very exciting night.”
Corey Perry made his NHL debut with the Ducks during the 2005-06 season, which also represented Selanne’s return to Anaheim after he signed a one-year contract over the summer.
Perry, now a 10-year veteran with 682 games of experience, cut his teeth in the NHL with Selanne by his side…literally. The two sat next to one another in the locker room that season, something Perry says was tremendous for his maturation as a player and as a person.
“I don’t think there’s a better person in this league who you can learn from,” he said. “He’s a guy who you watch on and off the ice, and you learn from that. That’s who you want to model yourself after.”
Perry says the sun is always shining for the future Hall-of-Famer.
“He’s a guy who came to the rink with a smile on his face,” Perry said. “I think that’s what I’m going to remember about him the most. There is never a bad day with that guy. It’s a special day for him. It’s going to be exciting.”
Devante Smith-Pelly recalls instances where the team resorted to hiding Selanne’s skates in an effort to keep him off the ice on his scheduled days off.
“Bruce [Boudreau] would try to give him days off, but he loved to be on the ice so much that we’d have to hide his skates,” said Smith-Pelly, who was born in June of ‘92, a few months before Selanne’s historic 76-goal rookie season began. “He’d always end up finding them and coming out a little later. No matter what, he always loved to be on the ice.”
Sami Vatanen makes it known that Selanne was one of his childhood idols. As a fellow Finn, the 23-year-old Vatanen says he collected Selanne’s hockey cards as a youngster growing up in Jyväskylä, a three hour drive from Selanne’s hometown of Helsinki. Vatanen made his Winter Olympics debut last year in what was Selanne’s final Olympic appearance (his sixth), and the two were teammates in Anaheim last season, when Vatanen appeared in 48 games. Showing the type of guy he is, Selanne loaned Vatanen a Mercedes-Benz to drive around town when he made the jump to the NHL.
“When I got here, he helped me out with everything,” said Vatanen, who leaned on Selanne and former teammate Saku Koivu to help him grasp and understand the English language, in addition to assimilating himself to North American culture. “It was a big thing for me. He was so positive and never had a bad day. It’s important to have a smile on your face.”
Anaheim (26-10-6, 58 points) and Winnipeg (21-14-7, 49 points) conclude a three-game season series tonight at Honda Center. The Ducks are 11-7-1 vs. the Jets with a 4-4-1 record at home. Anaheim has won three straight games vs. Winnipeg, including a 4-3 overtime win on Dec. 7 and a 4-1 victory on Dec. 13. Ryan Getzlaf leads the club with five points (1g/4a) in the first two games of the season series and paces active Ducks skaters in career scoring vs. the Jets franchise (three goals, 13 points).
It’ll be a beefed up Jets squad with the return of defensemen Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart, as well as forward Evander Kane. Bogosian had missed 14 games with a lower-body injury before returning on Jan. 8 at Arizona. Last night (5-4 shootout victory at LA), the Jets welcomed back Enstrom, Kane and Stuart. Enstrom had missed 19 games with a lower-body injury, while Stuart had been out for nine games and Kane for five.