x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Selanne is the NHL’s Mr. Nice Guy

Through his two stints with Anaheim and a Stanley Cup, Teemu Selanne has grabbed up four Olympic medals, and 684 NHL goals, which puts him 11th on the all-time list, writes Paul Oberjuerge.

Tim Jackman, left, and Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate after defeating the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 26, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Ducks defeated the Flames 3-2. Derek Leung/Getty Images
Tim Jackman, left, and Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate after defeating the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 26, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Ducks defeated the Flames 3-2. Derek Leung/Getty Images

Fans of sport have learned, to their sorrow, that most of their idols have feet of clay. Something about money and adulation from a tender age leaves many of them just this side of sociopathic.

Then there is Teemu Selanne.

If the Anaheim Ducks winger has some deep, dark secrets, they need to be publicised soon. The decorated and widely admired Finn is 43 and intends to retire from hockey after this season, which will end no later than June.

The number of teammates who respect and admire him are too numerous to count. The episodes of visits to hospitals and kindness to fans are legion.

One recent example of the superstar’s humanity came at the Sochi Olympics, where Selanne was named the best player of the tournament, and where, while in the hand-shake line after a 5-0 bronze-medal victory over the shattered US, he met up with the American Cam Fowler, who recalled to ESPN: “He told me he was sorry. That’s the kind of guy he is. He feels for other people.”

Flower added: “If there’s one guy on the planet that I feel happy for, despite losing that game, I think it’s him. He’s one of the best players to ever live and one of the greatest guys I’ve known.”

And let us not overlook just how good Selanne, a big and tough forward, has been, from his 1992/93 debut season with the Winnipeg Jets, when he set a record for goals by a rookie, through his two stints with Anaheim and a Stanley Cup and four Olympic medals, and the 684 NHL goals, which puts him 11th on the all-time list.

All the while being known as the forever decent family man, father of four children and perennial candidate for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the “most gentlemanly” player in the NHL.

He could go out on a high; the Ducks are one of the league’s best teams, and a second Stanley Cup certainly is a possibility.

As the season winds down, Selanne has told Ducks officials he is willing to play games on consecutive days, which he avoided earlier in the season in an attempt to pace himself.

Selanne has been feted across the league, as he makes his final visits to various cities.

“It feels very good to see that respect all over the league but at the same time, it’s a little sad,” he told the Edmonton Journal. “It’s the last time in many cities because everything has to end sometime. I’m just thankful I’ve been able to play all these years.”

Not as thankful as have been the fans and teammates who saw him play.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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