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Ducks honor Selanne?s 600th goal, stellar career

by Josh Brewster
ANAHEIM -- With the Ducks all but mathematically eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race, Monday night's pregame ceremony honoring Teemu Selanne's 600th goal had an air of finality and foreshadowing about it.

Finality in that there is a finite number of regular season games left for fans to see the "Finnish Flash" if Selanne chooses retirement. 

Foreshadowing in that the ceremony offers a sneak preview of the day -- sure to come -- when Selanne's No. 8 becomes the first Duck (or Mighty Duck) numeral raised to the Honda Center rafters.

Childhood idol and fellow countryman Jari Kurri traveled from Finland to join the festivities prior to the Ducks' game against the Dallas Stars. Kurri, who spent the 1996-97 season with Selanne in Anaheim, received a warm welcome. The first Finnish Hall of Famer, Kurri sits 17th overall in goals with 601, one ahead of his friend. 

A thunderous ovation rose from the crowd as a video was presented featuring a wide variety of Selanne's biggest goals, including his first, 500th and 600th. The biggest ovation came for footage of Selanne's series-turning goal in Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference Finals, which paved the way for the team's Stanley Cup victory in the following round.

Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli presented Selanne with a Tiffany sterling silver plate engraved with congratulations on his 600th goal as well as the names of his teammates.

Joined at center ice by his wife, Sirpa, mother Liisa, sons Eemil, Eetu, Leevi and daughter Veera, Selanne was given a framed selection of artifacts, including the handwritten summaries of his first and 600th goals, as well as news clips and photos with his teammates. In honor of the ceremony, the Ducks offered a free children's ticket with each ticket purchased.

Selanne kept his remarks brief, describing the "unbelievable" feeling of having scored the big goal in front of a home crowd on March 21 against a former club, the Colorado Avalanche

As he finished his remarks and posed for photos, he was serenaded by chants of "One more year!" Selanne turns 40 on July 3 and has stated recently that he'll take time after the season to contemplate whether he'll return or retire.

Kurri and Selanne met when a young Teemu attended Kurri's off-season hockey camp.

"He came to my hockey school," Kurri said. "We had a (mutual friend) who put us together. I had heard of him before, but I had never met him. We started to spend some time together, do some training together, during the offseason. We became good friends."

Selanne, 17 at the time he first met his childhood idol, was impressed with Kurri's wheels, and introduced himself through their mutual love of sports cars.

"Good car," Selanne claims were his first words to Kurri. 

Selanne laughs when he remembers that Kurri found out too late that he wasn't supposed to be driving.

"I didn't even have a driver's license," he said, "but I asked him if I could borrow the car and take a spin and he realized ‘he's 17.'" 

"I told him, ‘Take it easy, don't spoil my tires,'" Kurri remembered. "Later on I heard that it was a hard time for my car." 

Kurri joked that 600 goals and a Stanley Cup later, things are different.

"Now, I need to borrow his car," Kurri said. "Times (have) changed."

While in town for the ceremony, Kurri is staying at Selanne's family home. Selanne jokes that his legendary friend gets the "master suite" when he's in town.

A big fan of auto racing and car collecting, Selanne counts a Ferrari Enzo as his favorite.  Make no mistake, though, he won't be bumming a ride from Kurri during his visit.

"I'm not going to go with him," Selanne said. "I have to take control. Here we have six lanes and (in Finland) we have one or two. Got to be safe."

Selanne's ability to quietly find open ice year in and year out is no joke, however, and the Finnish Flash said his elite ability to do so can be taught by observing greats like Kurri.

"It's one thing you learn at an early age," Selanne said of his stealth quality. "Following guys like Jari and other great players, how are they going to handle different situations and how are they going to find the open (areas) and be the right guy in the right place. Those are the things you can learn from the great players, and I learned that at an early age. Follow that and good things usually happen."

Selanne was drafted with the 10th pick in the first round by the Winnipeg Jets in 1988, but didn't break into the NHL until after he served time in the Finnish Army and played three seasons in the Finnish Elite League. 

His delayed entry into the League proved beneficial. At 23, he famously scored an NHL rookie-record 76 goals, a feat without equal to this day. 

"He was a complete player when he came here," Kurri said, noting that that Selanne's rookie season was a siren call which proved he was going to become a special player.

"That 76 goals in (his) first year shocked everybody," Kurri said. "If (those are) the kind of numbers you put up in your first year, that's amazing. Nobody's broken it. Nobody's gonna (break) it as a rookie."

Kurri, who served as General Manager of bronze medal-winning Team Finland at the Olympics, says that Selanne, who plans to stay in Southern California whether he plays or not, will play a role in Finland's hockey future.

"I'm sure he will work for Finnish hockey," Kurri said. "Which way, we don't know, but I'm sure that with his experience we'd be stupid (to) not use him somehow."

Selanne is the highest-scoring Olympian in the history of men's ice hockey with 20 goals and 17 assists. 

"I haven't really thought about it too much, but I've always said that it's great when players who retire stay in the game and do something good for hockey," Selanne said.  "Especially for our country, it's a small country and we need guys like Jari who are going to take responsibility and help Finnish hockey."

Part of Selanne's legend has been his ability to score consistently at an advanced age. In 2006-07, at 36, he became the oldest player in history to score 45-plus goals in one season, finishing with 48. All told, since turning 35 after the 2004-05 work stoppage, Selanne had scored an exceptional 148 goals in 301 games heading into Monday night.

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