On the Penguins: Teemu Selanne likely to play his final game here Monday when Ducks visit
November 16, 2013 11:27 PM
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Teemu Selanne, left, on Nov. 6 with Anaheim.
Teemu Selanne as a rookie in 1993 with Winnipeg.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Teemu Selanne is not the player he was a couple decades ago, of course.
The rookie who scored 76 goals -- yes, 76 of them -- in 1992-93 has become a 43-year-old whose total might not make it very deep into double-digits in 2013-14.
But that doesn't detract from the impact Selanne, who has made it known he plans to leave the NHL after this season, has had on the league. On his teams. And on pretty much everyone with whom he has interacted since he broke in with Winnipeg.
For Selanne will be remembered not only as one of hockey's most prolific goal-scorers -- only 10 players have put more pucks behind NHL goaltenders -- but as one of its most personable and well-liked figures.
It's possible there is someone, somewhere in the hockey world who doesn't care for Selanne, but locating that individual might require an exhaustive search of both continents on which he has worked.
Selanne -- who will make what is expected to be his final regular-season appearance here Monday, when Anaheim faces the Penguins at 7:38 p.m. at Consol Energy Center -- might not be quite the icon in the Eastern Conference that he is in the West, where he has spent his entire career, but he commands respect, even affection, in every outpost around the league.
He is, seemingly without fail, gracious and accommodating with fans and media members, and admired by the men with whom he has shared a locker room.
"He's a great teammate," said Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen, who has played alongside Selanne on several Finnish national squads.
"Especially at that first Olympics (in 2006), I think I was the youngest guy on our team, and he was really easy to talk to. He was just one of the guys."
One of the guys who just happens to have played the game at a level few mortals can hope to reach.
If Selanne is not the greatest player to come out of Finland, it's only because Jari Kurri -- a brilliant two-way forward and core member of Edmonton's dynasty in the 1980s -- happens to share a homeland with him.
"He's at the top with Kurri, for sure," Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta, also a Finn, said. "Absolutely."
Jokinen agreed that there is an ongoing debate about which player is the finest his country has produced, and declined to express a preference.
"I can't decide," he said. "Teemu has more individual achievements, but obviously Jari has five Stanley Cups, and that's tough to beat. They're 1A and 1B for me."
Selanne recently appeared in his 1,400th NHL game, joining Nicklas Lidstrom and Jaromir Jagr as the only European players to dress for that many, and he trails only Jagr among active players on the all-time goal-scoring list.
It's hard to imagine that Selanne won't be delivering an induction speech at the Hockey Hall of Fame a few years after he retires, but he still might accomplish a thing or two before walking away from the game.
Perhaps help the Ducks make a run at the franchise's second Stanley Cup. Maybe contribute to his country earning an Olympic medal in Sochi, Russia.
"Hopefully, we both make the Olympics," Jokinen said. "It would be really cool to play with him one more time."
Some of Jokinen's teammates, especially the younger ones, might feel that way about playing against Selanne, too, whether it's Monday night here or March 7 in Anaheim. Sharing a slab of ice with a veritable legend has to make an impression.
Of course, it's always possible that Selanne will reverse course and decide that he has at least one more productive winter in him, that he should add another layer to his legacy by sticking around until 2015.
"The last eight years, he hasn't decided (whether to continue playing)," Jokinen said. "Even though he has said this is his last year, I think there still are guys who don't believe it. We'll see."
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