Many fine players have passed through the San Jose Sharks dressing room over the past two plus decades. Igor Larionov was the first former Shark to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Ed Belfour later joined him. Mike Vernon and Bernie Nicholls still have a solid case to get in. Joe Thornton will certainly be a HOFer some day and Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov will no doubt get consideration too. But in my view there has never been as iconic of a player in the history of the franchise as Teemu Selanne.
Selanne played his last NHL game last week when Anaheim was eliminated from the playoffs by Los Angeles. His career was outstanding. Selanne broke into the league with the Winnipeg Jets and shocked the world with a record 76-goal rookie season. It’s a record that still stands today and it earned him the Calder Trophy. After that all he did was consistently produce. Over his 21-year career Selanne scored 684 goals and recorded 1457 points. His 255 power play goals are the third most ever. His 110 game winning goals are the third most ever. He had 22 hat tricks.
Has any former Shark received more accolades than Teemu Selanne? Along with his Calder award he also won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy for leading the NHL in goals. He went to the All Star Game 10 times, captured four Olympic Medals for his native Finland and then capped it all with a Stanley Cup championship in Anaheim in 2007.
Regrettably Selanne’s time in San Jose was short. He played 176 games over parts of three seasons scoring 64 goals and 131 points. In his 18-playoff games in teal he had five goals and 10 points. But Selanne had knee trouble before and during his time as a Shark and he was never really the electrifying player that he was in other places.
But make no mistake that Selanne was a special player and person with the Sharks. On the ice he was a top scorer and playmaker. Off the ice he was a tremendous citizen who connected with the fans and touched many lives in San Jose and the Bay Area through the charitable work that he and his wife Sirpa always made a priority. And what an inspiration he has always been. The only time I’ve ever seen Selanne without a smile on his face was after losing a game.
Teemu Selanne is a bona fide, slam-dunk, no doubt about it, first ballot Hockey Hall of Famer. We were blessed to have him in San Jose for those three years and it will be a long time before we ever see a player of his caliber. Congratulations to “The Finnish Flash” on a remarkable career!