The NHL will be a poorer place this season without the on-ice presence of icon Teemu Selanne, who retired at the end of last year after a 21-year, first ballot Hall of Fame NHL career. But fans will have another chance to let the gentlemanly Finn know how much they appreciate him when the Anaheim Ducks retire his No. 8 before a January 11 game against his former Winnipeg Jets team.
No one would argue Selanne deserves the honor, as he became one of the most universally beloved NHLers in the modern era. Here are three reasons why he became such a hockey treasure:
1. His skill. Let’s face it, if Selanne wasn’t such a wizard with the puck – his 684 career regular-season goals place him 11th on the NHL’s all-time goal-scorer’s list, and his 1,457 points in 1,451 games are good for 15th overall all-time in league history – we wouldn’t have invested nearly as much time and effort into following him over the years. But he was an incredible force, as this video recap demonstrates:
2. His heart. Think about it: do you ever remember a controversy Selanne was embroiled in? Did he ever publicly dress down a teammate, rip management or embarrass an official? Was he ever busted in a compromising position that tarnished the image of himself or his employers?
Let me answer those three questions for you: no, no and no. All Selanne ever did was treat everyone – his fellow players, his fans and the media – the way he wanted to be treated. He was never a dirty player on the ice and everyone saw that, which is why it became easy to root for him regardless of whether or not you wanted the Ducks to win.
3. His sense of humor. There are many NHL stars who are to humor as Justin Bieber is to avoiding bad publicity. But Selanne never took himself so seriously that he was above engaging in self-deprecating behavior. Take, for instance, this video produced last summer announcing he’d return for his final season:
Selanne very easily could’ve been a self-interested, distant presence very early on in his career. That he was still the same down-to-earth person right to his last NHL days speaks volumes about his character.