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Hall of Fame

Kariya, Selanne steal show at Hall of Fame Q and A

Former teammates trade barbs during hilarious, emotional hour with fans

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

TORONTO -- This unfiltered, unscripted hour with fans began in 1999 at the request of Wayne Gretzky, and it's one of the best parts of Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend.

On Saturday, a crowd of fans filled all 236 chairs and spilled beyond them in the trophy-lined Great Hall of the hockey shrine to hear yarns spun from their questions.

It was at times hilarious, at times profoundly emotional. The five players in the Class of 2017 -- Dave Andreychuk, Danielle Goyette, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi and Teemu Selanne -- were loose and casual and at their storytelling best.

This much is certain: great friends Kariya and Selanne would be a smash hit on the comedy circuit, zinging each other with a flow as effortless and silky as the way they played the game.

Former teammates with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Colorado Avalanche, Kariya and Selanne were like skilled fencers on Saturday, jabbing and poking each other with gales of laughter from fans who had poured into the Great Hall an hour before the 1:30 p.m. start, the vast majority wearing jerseys.

And they weren't just the team colors of those on stage; you saw a Hasek, a McDavid and a Matthews. They came from far and wide -- one from Italy, another from Finland, many from California, others from across Canada.

"I miss the carving sessions in the dressing room before and after games, just like this, when you rip into each other," Kariya said with a laugh.

So with carving in mind, let's begin with hamburgers.

A fan from Southern California asked a decidedly non-hockey question, wondering aloud what both Kariya and Selanne would most likely order at In-N-Out Burger.

"Look at me," Selanne said with a mischievous smile, not missing a beat, tracing his hands down his lean physique. "I don't eat burgers."

Kariya jumped in, scoffing at his friend.

"A Double-Double and a chocolate shake. Fantastic."

The pair had begun their routine a half-hour earlier, relating to fans how they got the news in late June of their Hall of Fame election. Kariya had been surfing, turning on his phone upon his return to see a message from Selanne and nine missed calls from the 416 area code, Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald phoning from Toronto.

"Lanny called Teemu to ask him, 'Do you have another number for Paul?' " Kariya said. "He gives Lanny my cell and calls me immediately. His message was in a little girl's high-pitched voice: 'We're going into the Hall together!' I should have kept the message but I was embarrassed for him."

Selanne's reply was solid gold: "Paul thinks that receiving calls is going to cost him money, too, so he doesn't answer. And when I called him, I was speaking Finnish."

About his low profile in hockey, compared to Selanne, since playing his last game seven years ago, Kariya said he's a keen observer of the NHL and its young stars. Then, looking at Selanne, he added: "I don't see myself riding the Zamboni between periods like this guy, and taking selfies while he is. That's not going to happen, but we'll see."

Selanne, on Kariya's legendary pregame routine: "It was something else. It would take a half-hour to explain it."

The hour became a roast, everyone ribbing everyone. Players were asked which team they'd have most liked to play for, and Goyette, almost under her breath, said that Selanne could have won Olympic gold had he represented Canada and not Finland, which earned Kariya's high praise.

When players were asked which team they most enjoyed beating, Goyette said, "It's really easy for women's hockey. Team Canada and Team U.S. is the best game you can ever play."

The well-travelled Recchi, a Stanley Cup winner with three teams, drew laughter when he spoke about the great rivalries of which he's been a part: "Pittsburgh-Philly, Philly-Pittsburgh. Montreal-Boston, Boston-Montreal," he said, having played on those four teams as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins.

Recchi said that New Jersey Devils defenseman and fellow Hall of Famer Scott Stevens was probably the toughest opponent he faced.

Andreychuk elaborated:

"I played with (Stevens) and I can attest that he hated everybody," he said of his Devils teammate from 1996-99. "He was miserable to us and we were his teammates. He made us all better. He was hard on us, he hit for real in practice. He was one nasty fellow."

Kariya had a story about Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios:

"(Chelios) asked Teemu and I for a couple of autographed sticks prior to a game for a charity event he was doing. We signed the sticks and sent them over. Then in warmup, we looked over and Chris is using Teemu's autographed stick. Needless to say, he never got an autographed stick from either of us after that."

Selanne addressed his trade from the Winnipeg Jets, where he began his career, to Anaheim in February 1996.

"The first trade is always going to be the hardest," he said. "I took it pretty heavy. You almost feel that you've failed, that you haven't played well, which was not the case. On the other hand, I knew it was going to be a good, fresh start. It was minus-28 Celsius (minus-18 F) in Winnipeg and first morning in Anaheim, I'm having breakfast outside, it's plus-28 (82 F). I looked around and said, 'I think I've just found heaven.'"

Selanne quickly added that Winnipeg still burns brightly in his heart and that he'd not trade his time there for anything.

As varied as the answers were, common was the passion the five felt, and still feel, for the game of hockey, bred from street hockey, backyard rinks and small arenas.

If he didn't mean to speak for everyone, Kariya certainly reflected their sentiments when he considered why he loves hockey as he does, to this day.

"Individual sports are fun," he said, "but life is a team sport."

On his right shoulder, his friend and comedy partner Selanne nodded earnestly, without a smile.

It was Andreychuk who perhaps best captured the spirit of the day, and of what it means to this Class of 2017, and all who have gone before, to be immortalized within these walls.

"We all have great numbers and we played with great players but it's really how you carry yourself, treat your family and your fans," he said. "I am proud of that. When you talk about a Hall of Fame person, it's not just what you do on the ice, but off the ice as well."

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