Paul Kariya, the original face of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim franchise, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday in his fifth year of eligibility.
Fittingly, the speedy left wing will be a member of the same Hall of Fame class as his close friend and former linemate Teemu Selanne. It turned out that Selanne, The Finnish Flash, was too fast for Hall officials and broke the news to Kariya, who had been out surfing.
"I don't know how he knew before [the Hall of Fame]," Kariya said. "It's very nice to be inducted with Teemu, who, if I didn't get the opportunity to play with him, I wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame."
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Kariya, 42, was a three-time First All-Star Team selection who finished his NHL career with 989 points (402 goals, 587 assists) in 989 games with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. In 1993, he became the first NHL Draft pick in Anaheim franchise history (No. 4). He played for the Mighty Ducks (now the Anaheim Ducks) from 1994-2003.
Video: Kariya and Selanne each record 100 point seasons
Kariya said he was still pinching himself, calling the Hall of Fame election "an incredible honor."
"Something I never thought in a million years that I'd achieve," he said. "It's going to take a while to sink in, for sure."
The pinnacle of his Ducks career came in 2003 when he helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. He twice won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship, in 1996 and '97.
"Paul Kariya's career was marked by his speed, his shot, his discipline and his leadership," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Paul was a dynamic, determined and distinguished NHL player -- and an outstanding competitor. His election to the Hockey Hall of Fame serves as testimony to those attributes."
Kariya's sparkling international resume helped his Hall of Fame candidacy, too. He won a gold medal with Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. As an amateur, he helped Canada win silver at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
Video: Selanne, Andreychuk, Recchi, Kariya elected to HHOF
"I'm very humbled to be included in this incredible group of people," Kariya said. "Just so grateful to all the people throughout my career that helped me get to this stage. I can't say this is a dream come true because never in my wildest dreams did I ever think this was possible."
Said Selanne of his six seasons with Kariya in Anaheim (they were also teammates with Colorado in 2003-04): "I played my best years with Paul. The chemistry we had was magical every night."
They also displayed their off-ice chemistry on a conference call, immediately teasing each other about traveling to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Nov. 13 in Toronto.
"We can fly together and maybe you can pick up the tab for the private plane," Selanne said, laughing.
"We'll be flying coach, Teemu," Kariya said.
Video: Kariya is the first 50-goal scorer in Ducks history
The Ducks acquired Selanne from the Winnipeg Jets on Feb 7, 1996. It didn't take long for Selanne and Kariya to realize they would work well together.
"Teemu gets a lot of respect for his goal-scoring ability," Kariya said. "But the thing I noticed right away was what a great passer and playmaker he was and how unselfish he was …we didn't care who scored the goals. Teemu always joked that I could read his mind. Off the ice, it wasn't hard to read. He was always watching 'Baywatch' shows."