TORONTO -- Jason Jones, the self-proclaimed biggest Teemu Selanne fan in Rockport, Indiana, was back home from Toronto before his hero ever set foot on the Hockey Hall of Fame induction-night red carpet on Monday.
But the 28-year-old had enough memories for a lifetime, having spent a few days not just breathing the same oxygen as Selanne, but at long last having met the hockey player he's loved his entire life.
"As soon as I saw I could get tickets for this, back in July, when I saw that Teemu was getting into the Hall of Fame, I said, 'I have to be there,'" Jones said Saturday morning, wearing his No. 8 Selanne Anaheim Ducks jersey when he strolled outside the Hall of Fame gift shop.
He remembers being 4 or 5 when he and his father happened upon a Ducks game on TV, and he was instantly dazzled by Selanne's speed.
"My dad said, 'This is going to be your player,'" Jones remembered. "I didn't even know who he was. But ever since then, even when he went to the San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche, I've followed him."
Jones says he's "pretty sure I'm the only fan of Teemu within a good distance" of Rockport, speaking of the small city on the Ohio River.
He hoped to finally meet Selanne during a trip to Nashville in 2014, but the Finnish Flash was representing his country in the Sochi Olympics. He did meet then-Ducks center Saku Koivu, however, another Finn who recognized Jones' Finland jersey "and came over for a really nice chat."
In Toronto, Jones said Saturday morning, "I don't know if I'll get a chance to meet Teemu. But just being able to celebrate with him is enough for me, to be honest."
With his mother, he drove 50 minutes from Rockport to the airport in Evansville, Indiana, then flew to Chicago and on into Toronto to get within two rows of Selanne at the annual Canadian Tire Inductee Fan Forum. But that afternoon, his patience paid off.
Jones met Selanne, "after all these years," when his hero and other NHL legends took part in an autograph signing and photo opportunity at a Toronto hotel.
"Teemu was extremely kind and he stayed until everyone in line got to meet him, which was a little over two hours," he said on his way home to Rockport on Monday.
It goes without saying that Jones' love of Selanne is stronger still, if that's possible.
"Just the passion Teemu has for his country and how much of an ambassador for his sport that he is," Jones said of his loyalty. "It's just his fun-loving personality. He always has time for charities and for everybody else."
Which a devoted fan learned for himself first-hand on an unforgettable trip to Toronto.