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Friends, foes and fans salute Teemu Selanne

by Corey Masisak

ANAHEIM -- The ultimate result of the NHL's first Freeway Series became known well before the final minutes of Game 7 at Honda Center on Friday.

Most of the fans of the Anaheim Ducks who lingered despite the lopsided score in a 6-2 victory for the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of their Western Conference Second Round series were probably there for one reason: The chance to say goodbye to Teemu Selanne.

Selanne announced before the season that 2013-14 would be his last. This was not the end he was hoping for.

"It was very disappointing. I knew it was either going to be an unbelievable party or disappointment," Selanne said. "This time it wasn't the party. It's very disappointing. It's a funny game. We had our chances. We just couldn't take advantage of them. That's the way it goes."

The 43-year-old finishes his NHL career with 684 goals and 1,457 points in the regular season and 44 goals and 88 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He's one of the most decorated and productive players in the history of international hockey.

Selanne is an almost certain first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame member in three years if this is truly the end. But with Selanne, it has always been about more than his play on the ice.

Truly considered an ambassador for hockey, both in this part of the world and in his native Finland, Selanne is one of the most beloved players the NHL has ever seen. Whether it is opposing coaches and players or fans in any city, people have gravitated to his fun-loving, free-spirited personality and his willingness to shake every hand and sign every autograph.

"I coached Teemu and I know him," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "He is a special player and a special person. I am glad that he got to win the championship. As disappointing as it is for him to lose the series, he got to play here and he got recognized. I think both teams, not just his own team, but I know the respect that our players have for him too. It was really nice to see that."

The final scenes of Selanne's career played out about as perfectly as could be expected considering the situation. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau put him on the ice during a stoppage of play with 1:52 remaining, and fans from each team gave him a standing ovation.

He went to the bench shortly after play started back up, but he came back for the final shift. After handshakes and pats on the chests or hugs from every player on the Kings during the handshake line, the Ducks gathered near their bench as the crowd saluted Selanne again.

The Kings all stopped near their bench and tapped their sticks on the ice.

Where Selanne belongs on a list of greatest players in NHL history can be debated for years. He was one of the best of his generation, and without question one of the greatest in terms of longevity.

Boudreau named Darryl Sittler and Bobby Orr as players who are in Selanne's class when it comes to the universal admiration and respect he has received, and earned, in his long career.

"When I came here during the 1995-96 season, I didn't really know what to expect," Selanne said. "It turned out to be my home and a happy place for me and my family. The community and the people, the fans and the organization have really made us feel at home. There's no better place. I'm very thankful I've been able to play for so many years, especially here. This has been very special for me and my family.

"Everything great has to end. There's going to be a lot of sadness about this, but overall, there is going to be a lot of happiness. It's been an unbelievable journey. I've really been enjoying every day. Every morning I drive here with a smile on my face, win or lose. That's why this is so important for me. Everybody in this organization has been so important to me. I feel very special."

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