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Hall of Fame

Kariya, Selanne reunite on ice

Former teammates skate together at Haggar Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

TORONTO -- For a moment, it was the 1990s or 2000s again. Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne weren't part of the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2017 yet. They were part of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim or Colorado Avalanche, teammates, linemates, in their primes.

Kariya took a between-the-legs drop pass from Selanne, stickhandled into the slot and fired a wrist shot five-hole. Goal, Kariya. Assist, Selanne. Team Kurri took a 6-5 lead against Team Messier in the Haggar Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic at Air Canada Centre on Sunday.

 

[RELATED: Cancer survivor thanks Kariya for supportSelanne revered for skill, passion, joy he brought to game]

 

"He looked unbelievable," Selanne said afterward, standing next to his old friend.

"Well," Kariya said, smiling, "that's the only word in his vocabulary."

"He looked like he never left," Selanne said. "Unbelievable. Seven years no skating? That's unfair."

It's true. Kariya had not skated for seven years before Sunday.

After his last NHL game for the St. Louis Blues against the Nashville Predators on April 10, 2010, he recovered from post-concussion syndrome. He surfed, skied, snowboarded and more. But he didn't skate. He watched hockey and talked hockey with friends but attended one NHL game, sneaking into one of Selanne's last games in Anaheim in 2014.

His passion for hockey stemmed from playing hockey, and he wasn't a player anymore. He was a private person with many interests who enjoyed his privacy and other pursuits.

Video: Selanne, Kariya on playing in HHOF Legends Game

But June 26, he finished surfing, checked his phone and heard a voicemail message from a squealing Selanne, telling him they were going into the Hall of Fame together.

He held a stick in his hands for the first time since retirement at the ring ceremony at the Great Hall on Friday, when the inductees flipped pucks off blades into the air for a photo op. He traded barbs with Selanne at the Q&A Fan Forum at the Great Hall on Saturday, like they were in a locker room again. After the jacket ceremony at the ACC on Sunday, he put on the gear again.

Kariya had two rivets in one skate, so the equipment staff had to scramble. He wore a Blues helmet and mismatched gloves -- one blue and yellow, one black and white.

"That's all I had," Kariya said, laughing. "It was a mishmash of stuff. But I had enough equipment to play."

First shift, Kariya hopped over the boards, tested his blades and lined up at left defense for Team Messier. What was going through his head?

"Just not falling," Kariya said.

Kariya went up and down the ice. When he got the puck for the first time, he turned it over to Patrik Elias in the defensive zone and went off.

Second shift, he tried to one-time a pass in the slot from Bernie Nicholls and didn't get all of it. Third shift, Selanne danced around him and in on goal.

But late in the first period, it started to come back. Kariya skated into the right circle and flicked a backhand pass in front for Geraldine Heaney. Before the second, he was "traded" for a player to be named later to Team Kurri so he could be reunited with Selanne.

Former teammate Jean-Sebastien Giguere stoned Kariya on a breakaway. He stoned Kariya when Kariya tried to tap in a pass from Selanne, and Kariya put him in a mock headlock. He stoned Kariya and Selanne in the shootout. But Kariya got Giguere on the goal, because Giguere thought he would go high glove like back in the day.

"I'm happy I didn't fall, and I didn't have to use the defibrillators on the bench," Kariya said, smiling. "It was a close a few times. I was a little winded. But no, it was good."

It was good for one reason most of all. Who cares if Team Messier won 10-9?

"It's nice to see Paul out there with a smile on his face," said Giguere, who came specifically to play with Kariya and Selanne. "The game doesn't mean anything, but you could tell. He was working hard, and he had a smile the whole time. And that's what you need. You need some good experience back. I'm sure he'll be back again."

Video: Paul Kariya on Teemu Selanne, favorite Ducks moment

As Selanne spoke to reporters outside the dressing room afterward, he spotted Kariya.

"Hey, Paul! Come on over!"

There they were together again, side by side, talking hockey, giving each other grief.

"Dream come true to play with Teemu again and get a goal together," Kariya said. "It was awesome."

"We have a great history together," Selanne said. "Playing with him was so easy. We were both so fast, and we could both score and pass. I thought we were one step ahead of everybody else. Just great memories."

A reporter asked if they had their speeches prepared for the induction on Monday.

"One of us does," Kariya said, smiling. "Can you guess which one?"

Everyone laughed.

"Paul is going to leave his piece of paper," Selanne said, "and I'll just change the names."

What's one more assist between friends?

Video: Teemu Selanne on keeping focus, playing for Finland

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