|Selanne at last Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Speedway. (Clearly the sunglasses aren't helping with the glare.) |
It didn't get the same fanfare as some of the other Ducks' trip to Angels spring training camp
, but Teemu Selanne and some other Ducks spent their off day in Phoenix enjoying a different sport. Selanne, Francois Beauchemin, Matt Beleskey and Jonas Hiller went to Phoenix International Raceway for the Subway Fresh Fit 500, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race won by Carl Edwards.
The four players got the VIP treatment (as you'll see below), and even though he's a huge racing fan, it was the first NASCAR race Selanne had ever attended. (This would be as good a time as any to point out that according to this 2011 OC Register article,
in his Winnipeg days Teemu used to race cars in the offseason under a pseudonym that translated in English to "Teddy Flash" so that the Jets wouldn't find out.)
It all got me thinking: We know Selanne can play a little hockey and has been known to be a pretty decent golfer, but what other sports is he into? What does he watch? What did he play growing up?
After today's practice at Honda Center, I asked if he had a few minutes to talk. And even though he initially said, "About what?" instead of his traditional "No problem" we ultimately sat down and talked some sports. How was the NASCAR race?
It was awesome. We got the royal treatment. We got to go into the pits, see the pits stops and all the garages and the drivers’ meetings. It was a special day. Obviously I have been to a lot of Formula 1 races and Indy races, but not Nascar. It was interesting to see what the most popular sport in North America is all about.
Do you follow NASCAR at all?
Not at all. I watch some highlights, but I don’t follow it as a fan.
So where were you during the race?
We started out in the pits and watched the start and the first 25 laps or so. Then we went to a suite, where we could see the whole track.
What sports do you usually watch?
|A slightly younger Selanne behind the wheel in Finland. |
Besides Formula 1 and rally cars, I watch a lot of soccer, a lot of golf. It’s funny, but as long as I’ve lived here, I love to watch baseball and football playoffs, but regular season I don’t pay attention much at all. But playoffs, it doesn’t matter what sport you’re watching, it’s interesting. What’s baseball like in Finland?
We have Finnish baseball, called Pesäpallo, and it’s a little different. The bases are in a different order. We have home runs, but when you hit it, it has to land in a certain area where lines are. (NOTE: The game seems incredibly complicated, as you'll see here
.) It doesn’t matter how far you hit it, you just have to have the right pace and aim. The other team’s pitcher has to land the ball on a plate. It’s a fun game. It’s fast-paced. I played it a little bit in school. It’s funny, as big as hockey is in Finland, Pesäpallo is actually our national game.
That’s kind of like out here, baseball is considered the national pastime, but football is way bigger.
Yeah, same thing in Finland with hockey. Do you watch much football?
Not a lot, but I definitely watch the Super Bowl. This year I had a few families over for it. I don’t really root for anyone. I just hope for a good game.
What else did you play when you were younger?
|Teemu on the links. |
I played a lot of soccer, ice bandy – which is like field hockey with ice skates – and then track and field. I played a lot of tennis, not in competition, but in the summertime I played almost every day. Especially when I was younger, I didn’t like running or doing the weights to stay in shape. I just played tennis and squash and soccer. It wasn't all about hockey year round?
Oh no. When the hockey season was over, the gear went into the garage and all the same guys played soccer. When I was 16, I played ice bandy, soccer and hockey on the Finnish junior national teams. I tried to play all the sports as long as I could, but now that’s almost impossible. If you want to play at a high level, you need to make a decision and concentrate on one sport. So I went with hockey.