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Selanne set to be first jersey retired by Ducks

by Curtis Zupke /

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- The ceremony is supposed to start Sunday at 4:15 p.m. PT, but that might as well be written in pencil given how long it takes Teemu Selanne to get from place to place.

Selanne gladly stops to sign autographs or chat with fans, no matter the time or place, and he's had trouble making appearances on time this week leading up to his jersey retirement ceremony. About 100 fans showed up Thursday when word got out that Selanne was at Honda Center, and of course he didn't leave until every fan got their moment with him.

"That's why I'm always late," Selanne said.

Selanne's accessibility is as much a part of his legacy as his playing career, and his popularity makes him the overwhelming choice to be the first player in Anaheim Ducks history to have his jersey retired, a scant eight months after he retired at 43.

"It's very special," Selanne said. "Obviously, it's a good start for the culture and history of this franchise. There's going to be many others after that. Being first, it's going to be great."

Selanne has not mapped out a speech. Given his knack for storytelling and magnetic personality, it could be one of the more memorable jersey retirement ceremonies: Selanne center stage in a community that he has been a part of for so long.

"I think there's a lot of people in this organization and in Orange County that are looking forward to it," Ducks right wing Corey Perry said. "The one [ceremony] I remember was Steve Yzerman in Detroit. It was a long ceremony, but it was a great ceremony and it was well-deserved. I think that exactly what's going to happen here."

The guest list is expected to include Selanne's idol, Jari Kurri, former Ducks general manager Brian Burke and several former teammates. Former Ducks coach Randy Carlyle cannot attend because of a death in the family. Longtime friend and former linemate Paul Kariya is out of town and will not be able to attend, a team official said.

But Selanne, who coaxed Kariya into attending his final regular-season game last April, has similar plans to get Kariya in the building.

"Right now he says no, but I'm going to go get him," Selanne said.

Selanne certainly has time to corral Kariya in his post-hockey life. He has mostly played golf and tennis, run his high-end restaurant in Laguna Beach and spent time with his three sons and daughter. He rented an RV and drove to San Jose for one of his son's hockey tournaments. There is also his favorite television program, "Shark Tank."

In other words, he’s living the life of a teenager playing hooky from school.

"That slot between 8 [a.m.] and 3 [p.m.], it's so much fun," he said.

Selanne has done some promotional work for the Ducks, but he decided to hold off on getting back into the hockey world, unlike former Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who works part-time in a coaching/consulting capacity.

"I decided for the first year, I don't want to think about it," Selanne said. "I don't want to get too busy. … I'm surprised, actually. I haven't really missed the game as much as I thought. Of course I miss the boys and the locker room … but I played enough. It was the perfect time to retire. I know for a fact if I retired a year before, I would regret it.

"I was joking, 'I don't know what I want to do when I grow up.'"

Plus, he said at his age, "In the morning, I can start walking right away."

Selanne is the NHL's 15th all-time leading scorer whose career saw renaissance periods after the 2004-05 lockout and the 2007 Stanley Cup season. The player who once said it would be embarrassing for a 40-year-old to play in the NHL played until 43.

But Selanne's legacy transcends numbers, something that impacted goalie Ilya Bryzgalov during his first Ducks stint.

"You know how sometimes you can feel warm feelings from people?" Bryzgalov said. "Some people are closed [but] he opens his soul and opens his heart for you, you know? He always kind of welcomes you … when somebody is a really good human being, I think it's more important. He always can help you. You can always ask him a question and he'll help you to find the answer."

Selanne said it will be weird to see his No. 8 unveiled. He was 8 years old when his coach handed him jersey No. 8, and it has since followed him.

"Our house number was eight," he said. "My first motorcycle license plate was eight. It almost scares me."

The ceremony comes four months after Selanne had to smooth over comments he made about Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau to a Finnish journalist. Selanne, speaking after a Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Second Round series, harshly criticized Boudreau for his diminished role in his final season, when Boudreau reduced Selanne's ice time and benched him for Game 4 of the first round.

Selanne still strongly disagrees with Boudreau's decisions but he reconciled with him, and the Ducks defused the situation on the first day of training camp. The emotional Boudreau might shed tears when the No. 8 is raised. What it means to Selanne is best measured in all those interactions with fans.

"It surprises me all the time," Selanne said. "I never stop wondering how important it has been for the people. I don't think you can get used to it. I'm still wondering and laughing. 'How did this all happen?'"

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