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Hall of Fame

Selanne revered for skill, passion, joy he brought to game

Forward, being inducted Monday, won Stanley Cup in 2007, leading scorer among Finland-born players

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The second Finland-born player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame was inspired by the first.

Teemu Selanne, who will be inducted in Toronto on Monday along with Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, Danielle Goyette, former teammate Paul Kariya and builders Clare Drake and Jeremy Jacobs, adored five-time Stanley Cup winner and 2001 Hall of Fame inductee Jari Kurri while growing up in Helsinki.

"Jari was my idol," Selanne said. "I had his picture and Wayne [Gretzky's] picture on my wall as a kid. I tried to watch how [Kurri] played and tried to copy his things, learn how he scored goals and played the game."

 

[RELATED: Selanne remains legend among Finnish playersHousley: Speed, skill, IQ set Selanne apart]

 

Selanne finished his career with 684 goals and 1,457 points in 23 NHL seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. He retired after the 2013-14 season as the all-time Finland-born leading NHL scorer, 83 goals and 59 points more than Kurri.

He's also 11th all-time among all NHL players in goals and 15th in points.

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

Selanne was a unanimous choice for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year (50 of 50 first-place votes) in 1992-93 after he set rookie records of 76 goals and 132 points.

He won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, four Olympic hockey medals with Finland (silver in 2006, bronze in 1998, 2010 and 2014) and is the all-time leading scorer in Olympic hockey with 43 points (24 goals, 19 assists) in 37 games.

And while he topped the career marks of Kurri, a key cog in the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s, he also shattered the image of players from Finland, who were known to be silent and not very open.

"Kurri was always a star but Teemu was something different, something more, like a star with fans, very social and open and a likeable person," said former Finland national team coach Alpo Suhonen, who was an assistant with the Jets when Selanne arrived in the NHL. "The Peter Pan personality in hockey.

"Teemu was not really a typical Finn in that sense. People liked it because he was always happy-go-lucky. And of course he was always a good player, a very special player."

Kurri, who first met Selanne when he was 17, saw that personality first-hand when he asked Selanne to help him with his hockey school in Helsinki.

"He was eager to help me," Kurri said. "So I told him, 'You can jump on the ice before me because I've got some people to talk to before I go on the ice." So when I walk onto the ice, there's 40 kids sitting on the ice and Teemu's taking breakaways and shootouts.

"I said to him, 'The kids should be doing that and you should be telling them how to do it.' But that was him, that's the way he was."

That, Kurri said, was Selanne living and breathing his love for the game so completely that sometimes he just couldn't help himself.

"He's a really open guy, an outgoing guy, a happy guy, a funny guy," Kurri said. "He's somebody who cares about the fans and cares about people outside a hockey rink.

"There are not a lot of guys like that, who have the energy to do all those things. But Teemu was like that. He was flashy. He was fun to watch and he had the scoring touch. Fans and people remember that around the world."

It was one example of Selanne's goodwill and genuineness in all things life and hockey.

"It's what my mom and friends say, that I was always in a good mood," Selanne said. "To be honest, I think the advice I got at home, to treat people well and they will treat you well, I think that really works. Life is way easier that way."

That personality was nowhere to be seen after the Jets selected him with the No. 10 pick in the 1988 NHL Draft.

"People don't remember that he had come to Winnipeg's training camp [in 1988], that he was this little Finnish kid sitting on his bed in the hotel and couldn't speak a word of English and was overwhelmed by the language and all the things that were happening to him," said Randy Carlyle, Selanne's teammate with the Jets and later his coach with the Ducks. "In the end, when he was ready for the NHL, he came over at 22 and was more of a seasoned player and dynamic scorer. He had such personality, wholesome and true.

"At first look nobody would have ever expected him to turn out to be the Finnish Flash."

Selanne, 18 when he was drafted, spent four seasons in Finland before coming to the NHL. He had to do a year of mandatory army service, sustained a broken leg and because of his desire to play in the 1992 Albertville Olympics, which was prior to NHL players being allowed to participate, delayed his arrival in Winnipeg.

When he did arrive for the 1992-93 season, he took many by surprise.

"I met him in Moncton [New Brunswick], which was my first training camp (1988)," said former Jets defenseman Teppo Numminen, who is from Tampere, Finland. "So I knew about him. But in '92 when he came over, you just never know how it's going to go.

"I had big expectations because he was from Finland, but I learned [the NHL] is a different game, different style, so even good players from Europe, well, before camp, you couldn't say for sure.

"Then the season started."

With his reputation as an explosive scorer established in Winnipeg (306 points in 231 games for the Jets), Selanne discovered a different high after he was traded to Anaheim on Feb. 7, 1996.

He hit it off instantly with Kariya and carries a near reverence for his former teammate.

They played almost exclusively on the same line until Selanne was traded to the Sharks on March 5, 2001. They were reunited with the Avalanche in 2003-04.

"It was such a pleasure, especially in Anaheim, that line with Paul and Steve [Rucchin]," he said. "Really special."

Selanne is thrilled he and Kariya go into the Hall of Fame in the same class.

"We have history together and it was something magical every night," he said. "He's by far the best player for me that I ever played with. We felt like we were almost a step ahead of everybody else. It made the game so much easier to play."

Selanne's Cup victory in 2007 came after re-uniting with Carlyle in 2005, when Carlyle became the Ducks coach. Selanne, who signed as a free agent, was rejuvenated after having knee surgery and the lockout season of 2004-05 to rehabilitate.

"I have often thought about this, that if there had been some other coach at that time who would not have known me, I'm not sure how things would have played out," Selanne said. "He knew me and what I could do and he gave me the best players to play with. I feel very lucky. I have so much respect for him. Who knows what might have happened if we had not had the lockout year and I had not had Randy as the coach."

Carlyle said he asked Selanne to cut no corners, to be a leader in work ethic, to forecheck and backcheck when game situations dictated any member of the team should. Carlyle told Selanne if he did that, he'd get all the power-play time he wanted. During the Cup-winning season, he led the NHL with 25 power-play goals and tied for first with 10 game-winning goals.

"And please remember he was a healthy Teemu when we got him in 2005," Carlyle said. "He had his knee reconstructed and had time to recover, and he was back to the player he had been. I think his experiences in Colorado and San Jose were hard for him because he was a banged-up hockey player then, didn't have the same legs.

"He had fun at the rink again. He says it to this day, that the rink was his happy place."

It stayed a happy place far longer than Selanne expected; he was 43 when he retired.

"The older I got, I enjoyed the game more and more," he said. "But if somebody had told me after the Cup that I'd play until 2014, I would have found that hard to believe."

Selanne's final NHL season did not end with a Stanley Cup victory, but contained its own special finale.

An emotional Selanne was named most valuable at the 2014 Sochi Olympics after he had six points (four goals, two assists) in six games, helping Finland win the bronze medal.

"I wasn't happy about my ice time that season; I thought I could do more," Selanne said. "In Sochi I knew I'd have a big role, play with Mikael Granlund and Aleksander Barkov, so that kept me going and my spirit up, pushed me to work every day.

"I knew it would be a perfect ending for my career, no matter how the rest of the season went. Playing six Olympics, they were all special and important in my career, but this one was special."

The spirit generated in his sixth Olympics was a feel-good experience for teammates and fans, much like it was throughout his career, making Selanne's Hall of Fame selection one of the most popular ever.

Said Rucchin: "[For the ceremony], they could have had 10,000 tickets for Teemu and it still wouldn't have been enough."

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