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Housley: Speed, skill, IQ set Selanne apart

2015 Inductee reflects on amazing start to career of Finnish Flash

by Phil Housley / Special to NHL.com

Phil Housley was a major factor in the spectacular season authored by forward Teemu Selanne, who scored an NHL-rookie-record 76 goals and 132 points in 1992-93 when each was a member of the Winnipeg Jets. Housley, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, had the best season (97 points in 80 games) of his 22-season NHL career in the one season he was Selanne's teammate. They have been good friends since. After he retired in 2003, Housley turned to coaching. He spent four seasons as an assistant with the Nashville Predators and was hired as the coach of the Buffalo Sabres on June 15. Here, Housley shares his thoughts on Selanne, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, in a special testimonial for NHL.com:

Teemu Selanne will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, an easy choice because his numbers speak for themselves.

 

[RELATED: Selanne revered for skill, passion, joy he brought to game | Selanne remains legend among Finnish players]

 

In a career of 1,451 regular-season games across 21 seasons, Teemu had 1,457 points (684 goals, 773 assists). It's impressive how impactful he was on every team he played with. He was always a dynamic player who played the game with speed and with skill and with a very high hockey IQ.

His consistency throughout his years was amazing. He scored 31 goals the season (2010-11) he turned 40. And he scored 26 the season after. Obviously, he had to change a little bit how he played in his later days because the game was not the same as when he broke in, but he was such an exciting player, not only to play with but to watch.

Teemu's memorable first season was my 11th in the NHL and I had a front-row seat for all the history that was made.

Video: 1993: Teemu Selanne sets rookie goal-scoring mark

In training camp, I knew he was a special player, just watching him, the way he went about his business, how he approached the game. He was a very passionate guy about the game and I think we created really good chemistry very quickly in training camp and it seemed to grow into the regular season.

At 22, he was a little bit more mature than most rookies coming in and, at the time, we had a lot of rookies on our team. They all had a lot to prove and we, as an organization in Winnipeg, had a lot to prove. We made the Stanley Cup Playoffs the season before and had to continue to prove ourselves and gain respect around the League.

We tried to teach the young guys consistency day in and day out - it's how you're successful - and Teemu was easy to convince because he was a very passionate player and he wanted to do well and prove himself.

That was the time of some of the best hockey of my own career; 97 points in Teemu's rookie season, and I thought I had a solid year the season before, with 86 points. When you have guys like Teemu and Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhamnov, guys with good hockey minds and who were impactful throughout their careers, it was a fun team to be around and it was great to come to the rink. The energy they brought was exciting and we had a tight team because of it.

My memories of that special season, Teemu's first season, are still strong. He was a clean-cut guy, very respectful. His personality was always outgoing but as a rookie, Teemu was like most rookies, trying to feel things out a little bit, trying hard to just be part of the team. He had a lot of respect for the older players and the organization so there was really nothing bad you could say about him. He was a very classy guy from the outset of his NHL career, carried himself very well on and off the ice.

Video: Teemu Selanne on his Hockey Hall of Fame selection

People ask me if I appreciated what was going on that season while it was going on. It's a definite "yes."

I think Teemu had such a knack of timing and finding holes and his speed, especially from a dead stop, helped him exploit those abilities. I found it easy to get the puck to him. That's the definition of making players around you better.

We fed off each other well. That made it a great combination because I liked to join the rush and he could make defensemen back off, then pull up and create some separation and find the second wave of attack. And in regrouping situations, you'd first look for him because you knew he'd find the opening.

He finally won the Stanley Cup playing for the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. Anybody you have a good relationship with, you're rooting for. I was excited for him to earn it. It was a great accomplishment.
And that brings me to another reason Teemu should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I'm certain he's going to enjoy the induction, that it will be a truly special moment for him among all his special career moments.

This ceremony is the fruit of your labor. I can speak from experience here, that until you get up on that stage and you're really inducted, it doesn't hit you. I know when I was inducted, I was coaching in Nashville and I was in coaching mode all the time, trying to win games. So until you actually drive up to the Hall of Fame and see your picture there in the window, well, that's the time it really hit me, that this is really happening and I'll bet it will be the same for Teemu.

When you are announced as an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and you walk up onto that stage, it hits you and that's why people get emotional. It's like a hammer coming down. You're now part of something very, very special.

You will see that look on his face, the joy and the emotion, and it will tell you how genuine and how worthy Teemu Selanne is as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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