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Tkachuk fortunate to have been Selanne's teammate

by Brian Hedger /
It's one of those memories that always will make Keith Tkachuk shake his head in disbelief.

Tkachuk, who retired in 2010 and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday in Chicago, was just 20 years old and playing his first full season with the original version of the Winnipeg Jets when Teemu Selanne, a 22-year old Jets rookie, scored a jaw-dropping 76 goals.

That mark shattered Mike Bossy's old NHL rookie scoring record of 54 goals and remains a record today. Selanne also added 56 assists that season, and his 132 points also remains a League record for first-year players.

It didn't take Tkachuk or anyone else long to realize just how good the "Finnish Flash" was -- especially at skating and putting the puck in the net.

"The first day of training camp, you saw him and you noticed how skilled he was and how fast," said Tkachuk, who had 28 goals and 51 points himself that season. "He was determined to score goals and nobody could score goals skating with that speed like he did. There's only one other guy, Joe Sakic, so it was pretty cool to see."

"The first day of training camp, you saw him and you noticed how skilled he was and how fast. He was determined to score goals and nobody could score goals skating with that speed like he did." -- Keith Tkachuk

It also was a little mind-numbing to witness.

Nobody just walks into the NHL straight from playing in Finland and scores 76 goals as a rookie … except Selanne, who still is giving opposing goalies problems at the age of 41 for the Anaheim Ducks. He has 9 goals and 20 assists in 29 games this season, after scoring 31 goals last season. His 646 goals are second among active players and 13th all-time.

Selanne will return to Winnipeg on Saturday to face the re-born version of the Jets at MTS Centre, but what he did nearly 20 years ago still makes people marvel when they think about it.

"That was unbelievable," Tkachuk said. "I mean, you just sat back and you were in awe of what was happening. I don't think anybody was ready to see how fast this kid (was). Nobody could keep up (with) him."

Not many goalies were ready for the speed and skill combination he possessed, either. Selanne's skating and defenseman Phil Housley's offensive talents in the passing game were a lethal combination. Housley scored 18 goals in 1992-93 but also had 79 assists -- many of which, as Tkachuk recalled, went straight to Selanne.

"You know, to score 76 goals … that's unheard of," Tkachuk said. "I mean, everything was going in (for Selanne). He got more breakaways in a game just because of his speed and his relationship with Phil Housley, who'd send him all the time. It was pretty remarkable. I'm glad I was a part of that."

Luke Adam
Left wing - career staTs
GOALS: 538 | ASST: 527 | PTS: 1,065
GAMES PLAYED: 1,201 | +/-: 33
Tkachuk also has another, more humorous, memory of that season with Selanne. On the night Selanne broke the rookie scoring record -- with a hat trick against the Quebec Nordiques -- Tkachuk had an odd stat line of his own to ponder.

"The game he broke the rookie record, we won like 6-5 and the only reason I remember that game was because I was minus-5 that night and I scored a goal," Tkachuk said, laughing. "I don't know how that could happen."

Equally as puzzling is the way Selanne seemingly never loses his great first step, speed and magic around the net.

"He just has a great knack for knowing how to score goals," said former star defenseman Chris Chelios. "I watched him play the other night and I've seen how he does it. I've seen how just all of a sudden disappears, goes behind the net and then he's wide open on the other side. He's a great player."

Tkachuk agrees.

"It's great to see," he said. "He's 40-something years old and still going out and getting the job done. It's fun to see. Hopefully he can keep doing it."

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