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Hall of Fame

Selanne remains legend among Finnish players

Countrymen praise him for his skill on ice, contributions to hockey community

by Tim Campbell / NHL Staff Writer

Finnish NHL players and former players are eagerly anticipating the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions Monday.

At the ceremony in Toronto, Teemu Selanne will become the second Finland-born player inducted into the Hall of Fame; Jari Kurri was inducted in 2001.

NHL.com caught up with several Finnish players, present and past, for their thoughts about Selanne's induction and some favorite memories and stories about the "Finnish Flash."

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"Jari was the first, Teemu is the second, those two guys are huge. (Teemu and I) played many tournaments together and it was just an honor to be on the ice with him. He was such a special player, a special human being. I would say he's top five most recognized (people) in Finland. Everybody loves his personality. He's on magazines all the time, almost non-stop. Obviously, everybody knows him back home. He's one of those guys who can stop and talk to you and he's just a great human being." -- Kimmo Timmonen, former defenseman for the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks

"He's a legend, one of my biggest idols growing up in Finland. It's a small country and there's not a lot of superstars in Finland, but he's one of them. He's done so much, not only for us Finnish players, but Finnish hockey and the country of Finland. When they hear Teemu Selanne, they think about Finland and they see the positive guy he is and what kind of example he can be for other players and other people. He's meant a lot." -- Pekka Rinne , Predators goalie

 

"Anybody close to my age, they definitely followed him since he played so many Olympics and had such a great career in the NHL. I played with him in Sochi and, in Sochi, it was just the way he handled himself. He played in his first Olympics before three of us [on the roster] were actually born. It was pretty cool to think about it that way. It was just the way he was. You could go talk to him, it didn't matter that he was double the age we were, me and (Aleksander) Barkov. He was just so good to everybody." -- Olli Maatta , Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman

 

[RELATED: Selanne revered for skill, passion, joy he brought to game | Housley: Speed, skill, IQ set Selanne apart]

 

"For me, if I think about Teemu, I think he's the cover boy of Finnish hockey. If somebody says 'Finland' then they're thinking about Teemu and what he's done in this League. It's an honor for him and an honor for the Finnish people that he's going in the Hall of Fame. Now I think a lot of Finnish kids can now actually see that a small guy from Finland can go into the Hall of Fame. It's a major thing for our country. At the World Junior [Championship] in Finland, that was the first time I met him. It was just an honor to shake his hand and meet your childhood idol. That was just awesome. It felt good." -- Patrik Laine , Winnipeg Jets forward

"For every Finnish kid, he's an idol. He was one of my favorites, like a role model. He's a pretty huge thing in Finland. Pretty much every time he played for the national team was pretty fun to watch, but I also watched him when he played in the NHL. And of course, I watched in the Stanley Cup (Final in 2007)." -- Sebastian Aho , Carolina Hurricanes forward

"Why is Teemu so popular? Two things. It was the style of hockey he played. Scoring all those goals, it's tough not to like the guy. Also, off the ice, he's always been involved in a positive way around the game and always speaks highly about the game, making sure that the culture will continue. For myself, knowing him and playing with him, even though it was only a short period of time on the national team, still he was, like they all were, good for you. When you have that leadership and that kind of person in the room playing with you, you want to be there and learn as much as you can." -Mikko Koivu , Minnesota Wild forward

"Such a small country, as we are, it's a big deal, a big thing for Finnish hockey. We need to be proud of that. That's how we make hockey in Finland even better, to see those role models and great players who are class acts on and off the ice … it means a lot for us. I got to play the Sochi Olympic Games with him and that was really special. When I was a kid, he was one of the biggest idols for me. It was a great honor to be able to play with him and on the same line as him. It was a great experience. He's such a great guy. He's Teemu. He's happy. He talks to everyone. He's great to be around." -- Mikael Granlund , Wild forward

"He had a lot of fun, such a positive, fun guy, but when the game was on the line and you had to get serious to win, he showed the way. He wanted to win, did everything he could to win. One cool thing about him having such a long career is that some of our young players have had a chance to play with a legend and the idol they grew up with. Kind of like (Jaromir) Jagr and the Czech guys. It's an amazing thing, really rare that this happens in any sports anymore but it makes it more special." -- Teppo Numminen, former defenseman with the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres

"I played in Vancouver with him at the Olympics. He was one of the players I used to follow growing up. It was good to see him up close, playing. That was the only Olympics for me, so it was definitely special. The tournament was amazing. I was in awe in a way. It was a great experience. And getting a medal, too, was a crown for that. Nowadays, we only play tennis together. He's good, especially now when he's not playing hockey any more so he has too much time. Now it takes for the end of the summer for me to have a chance." -- Valtteri Filppula , Flyers forward

"He was one of my idols when I grew up. I was watching him play a lot. He was a great player; over 600 goals, that's a pretty good achievement. Going to the Hall of Fame, that is so deserving. He's a great guy too. I met him a couple times, a great dude. Everybody knows Teemu. He's not shy, so that's a lot of fun for the people. He is so friendly and nice. When (Anaheim) won the Cup, that was a big thing in Finland too. When he won the Cup, all of Finland was proud of him. That was a great moment for all of us. We felt so happy for him." -- Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche forward

"I don't think you'll find anybody who's got something bad to say about him. I had the honor of playing with him twice in the Olympics and once in the World Championships. That bronze medal in Sochi, we had a tough loss to Sweden in the semifinal and didn't get a chance to play for the Olympic gold. But he was in his sixth Olympics and in our pregame meeting, we didn't need our coaches to come in and speak. It was just Teemu for five minutes and he shared with us his experience and how big an Olympic medal is and that you don't have too many chances to get that medal. That was special for all of us who played there." -- Jussi Jokinen , Edmonton Oilers forward.

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