Craig Petter | May 12th, 2020
“Domi flips it high… Selanne goes after it! Teemu Selanne breaks in, he scores!”
Listen closely to fuzzy replays of that goal from March 2, 1993, and you just might hear the sound of gunshots. Winnipeg Jets phenom Teemu Selanne burns past two paralyzed Quebec Nordiques defencemen, flips a loose puck over a lunging Stephane Fiset and pick, pack, pock; three distinct cracks ring out to suit the equally thunderous occasion. After all, Selanne just netted his 54th goal to surpass Mike Bossy’s previous rookie goal-scoring record.
So ‘The Finnish Flash’ flung his right glove to the rafters, swung his stick up like a shotgun, and pumped away in triumph. It was an electric reaction to an electric achievement during the electric debut of the greatest Finn to ever lace a pair of skates.
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Drafted: 1988, Round 1, #10 overall, Winnipeg Jets
NHL Tenure: Winnipeg Jets- 4 seasons, 1992-1996 / Anaheim Mighty Ducks (then Anaheim Ducks)- 14 seasons, 1996-2001, 2005-2014 / San Jose Sharks- 2 seasons, 2001-2003 / Colorado Avalanche- 1 season, 2003-2004
Stanley Cup Rings: 1, Anaheim Ducks- 2006-2007
NHL All-Star Appearances: 10
Top NHL Rookie (Calder Trophy): 1992-1993
Top NHL Goal Scorer (Rocket Richard Trophy as of 1999): 1992-1993, 1997-1998, 1998-1999
Hockey Hall of Fame Induction: 2017
Finnish Flash, Flashy Finish
As his nickname suggests, Teemu Selanne was absurdly fast. Breakaways saturate his highlight reel. Where Selanne blends the missiles strapped to his feet with a knack for cross-crease dekes to score goal after goal after goal. He was renowned for his explosiveness, as he only needed two or three quick strides to leap past defensemen and jet towards the net. Selanne did not usually rely on feints and dangles to create time and space, the two most precious hockey commodities. He beat defenders wide, opting to veer around bodies instead of trucking through them, swooping and zooming across the ice en route to spectacular goals. On rare occasions of momentary stasis, Selanne thrived on one-timers from the left boards.
A Record-Setting Rookie Sensation
Although Selanne did not don a Winnipeg Jets sweater for four years after he was drafted, hopes of future stardom only mounted as he developed in Finland. In his first full season with Jokerit Helsinki as an 18-year-old, Selanne scored 36 goals and posted 69 points in only 35 games. His production spearheaded the team’s rise from the I-Divisioona to SM-liiga, the highest professional hockey league in Finland. Selanne continued to excel amongst the best men of the nation, leading the entire league in goals and guiding Jokerit to an SM-liiga championship in 1992.
In North America, the Finnish Flash unraveled from a spark to an inferno. He contributed two assists in his first NHL game, his first tally two nights later, and a hat-trick in the fifth game of the season. Lesser talents would have struggled to sustain the momentum.
Selanne, however, soared to unprecedented stratospheres as a rookie in the NHL. After creeping towards Mike Bossy’s rookie goal-scoring record all year long, Selanne clipped it quite suddenly with seven goals over two games. He topped the overall rookie scoring record two weeks later when he notched his 110th point, eclipsing Peter Stastny’s previous output. With 76 goals and 132 points at the tender age of 22, Selanne tied for the league-lead in goals and earned the worthiest Calder Trophy in hockey history. Both rookie scoring records stand unchallenged today, all but untouchable.
Fast Times in Anaheim
Despite his early eruption and two more years of solid but comparatively unspectacular production at a point-per-game pace, the Winnipeg Jets shipped Selanne to Disneyland in 1996. On the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Selanne reasserted himself as the premier radiant NHL goal-scoring talent that emerged in his rookie season. He crossed the 50-goal threshold for the second time in his inaugural season as a Mighty Duck to place second in NHL goal-scoring after Keith Tkachuk. Selanne shared the throne of the top NHL goal-scorer the next season in 1998 with Slovak star Peter Bondra at 52 goals apiece.
By the 1998-1999 season, the NHL decided to designate an actual award for the player who leads the league in goals, issuing the Rocket Richard trophy for the very first time. Timing favored Teemu in this regard. He shined alone as the top NHL goal scorer with 47 markers and first Rocket Richard recipient. Had the league always awarded a trophy for that feat, Selanne would need a trophy case three times wider to accommodate his previous two titles.
Selanne slightly faltered after his Rocket Richard caliber campaign. He still produced respectable numbers in the NHL, but the Finnish Flash had faded. From 2000 to 2004, Selanne never potted more than 30 goals in a season. He played for three separate teams: Anaheim, the San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche. It was in his brief stint in the Rockies where Selanne hit the rock bottom of his career. He scored a measly 32 points in 78 games, 100 points less than his astronomical rookie season eleven years prior. The flash was all but extinguished.
Then came the 2004-2005 lockout, winter in Finland, and fresh ink on a one-year contract with Anaheim. Back in his North American home at 35 years old, the Finnish Flash flared again. Selanne sniped 40 goals and added 50 assists for a towering total of 90 points. Beyond the scoresheet though, Selanne provided some crucial veteran perspective alongside Scott Niedermayer on a promising young team boasting future stars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. In return for his remarkable resurgence, Teemu Selanne won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to his career that year.
His presence paid off again the next season. Selanne increased his output to 48 goals and 94 points as the third-highest goalscorer in the entire league. Finally snagging the beloved 36-year-old Finn a Stanley Cup became the rallying cry for the Anaheim Ducks that postseason. He did his part with 15 points through four rounds of playoffs. Selanne played a pivotal role on the Ducks roster that beat the Ottawa Senators in five games to win the Stanley Cup. Footage exists of Selanne weeping after his lap of the rink with the cup hoisted over his head as ‘More Than A Feeling’ by Boston blares in the background. More than a feeling it must have been.
Chasing Gold Six Times Over
Only two male ice hockey players have ever participated in six Olympic Games: Raimo Helminen, who played one season for the New York Islanders and returned overseas in the 1980s, and fellow Finn Teemu Selanne. The latter boasts more Olympic points than any hockey player in history, though he never won a tournament championship with ‘Suomi’ on his chest.
Selanne first represented Finland at the Olympics in 1992 while playing his final season in Helsinki before hopping the pond and lending his talents to the Jets. He led the team with 11 points as a 21-year-old, though Finland disappointingly fell in the quarterfinals to the Unified Team of former Soviet republics. At the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Selanne tied as points leader of both his nation and the entire tournament with his compatriot Saku Koivu. He also captured his first Olympic medal at those Games as the Finns beat Team Canada 3-2 in the bronze medal matchup.
By the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Selanne sported the captain patch on his national sweater for the first time. Finland failed to place though, seeding some unrest among the Finnish population that went unsettled until their silver medal push four years later in Turin. Selanne dominated the 2006 tournament again, leading in points alongside Koivu once more while Finland scorched their way into the gold medal game. Though Selanne won the Best Forward designation at the tournament, he left Italy crestfallen as Sweden beat Finland 3-2 in the final game and stole the gold.
2006 proved the closest Selanne would ever come to winning an Olympic Gold for his home country. He collected two more bronze medals in 2010 and 2014 respectively. He earned the distinction of Tournament MVP at the latter in Sochi with six points in six games as a 43-year-old. Four medals, six Olympics appearances, and 43 total points are impressive feats. Unfortunately, the lack of Olympic gold shades an otherwise gleaming and unparalleled international career.
An Everlasting Flash
Teemu Selanne retired from professional hockey after the 2013-2014 season. He took a solitary honorary lap around the rink to cap off the final game of his career on May 12, 2014, after the Los Angeles Kings eliminated Anaheim in the second round of the playoffs. The Ducks cranked his jersey up to the rafters at Honda Center less than a year later. The Hockey Hall of Fame carved his name into the predominant list of greats two years after that.
He ultimately scored 684 goals and posted 1457 points in 1451 career NHL games spanning two decades of devoted hockey. One of only three European players with 600 goals, Selanne places 12th on the all-time NHL goal-scorers list and 16th in terms of points. He was the highest-scoring rookie in NHL history. Selanne is the highest-scoring Anaheim Duck in franchise history. He is the highest goal-scoring Finn in hockey history. Whether hockey posterity lives on in Helsinki, Winnipeg, or Anaheim, Teemu Selanne’s name will never be forgotten wherever fans respect blistering speed and the true legends of the game.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images