On Friday night, I had a chance to cover an entertaining game between the Devils and Ducksboth playing very well of lateat Prudential Center. The contest ended in controversy, with a Ryan Getzlaf overtime goal disallowed for a "distinct kicking motion" despite the fact that his leg was hooked by a defender. New Jersey won the shootout, 3-2.
Afterwards, the legendary Teemu Selanne was in a relaxed and jovial mood, remaining bullish about Anaheim's prospects of making the postseason after performing well during the first part of their "do or die" road trip. His discussion with "the Finnish media" was very enlightening
but in Finnish. I want to share some of the content with you. The translations below are my own.
First of all, my own questions for Teemu.
Q: "It's been the same question for several years now with you, about how long you'll continue playing. You're healthy. You're playing well. Couldn't you keep playing for several more years?"
A: "Let's put it this way: that's the reason I've still been playing. Things are going well, and in the vast majority of games, I still feel like I'm 25. For that reason, why not? Of course, you know that at some point, you'll have to call it quits. Preferably you do so when you feel like you could still play many years, and not because someone tells you that you can't keep up anymore. But I'm still keeping up with the youngsters, so that's a good thing. I've enjoyed that I've been able to play so long, and it feels like I haven't lost a lot of my speed or skillthat's been key. This has worked well for me, this 'one season at a time', with it being my 'last season' every yearthis way I get the best out of myself, and I enjoy every day. I'm trying to soak everything up out of this that I can, all the enjoyment. As I've always said before, when I was young, I didn't have a clue about that. I can enjoy it even more than when I was young, now in my old days as a hockey player. You can enjoy different things than when you were young. When you're younger, you take everything around you for granted, but when you're older, you start to understand and appreciate things: that you're doing a job you enjoy, that you're healthy, and everything else that goes with it. You can say that it's been 'a dream come true', to this point."
Q: "Do you understand how much everyone appreciates you? Not just Finns, but also here in North America. People always tell me what a great person you are and what a high level you're still playing at. Do you understand how much everyone appreciates you?"
A: "Thanks a lot for saying that. Even today, before some of the faceoffs, a couple Devils players said 'Thanks for everything you've done, I've watched you since I was a kid, it's an honor to watch you and play against you.' That kind of feedback, from opponents and teammates, is perhaps the biggest thank you. But it's hard to reflect on it otherwise. You just try to do your job. It's been great."
Q: "I saw you in 1990 when you played for Jokerit in Finland. Now that's a long time ago."
A: "That is a long time ago [laughs]
I remember it, like it was yesterday." [laughs]
Q: "HIFK was my favorite team, but I went to see a lot of Jokerit games."
A: "I remember those times, fondly. And a lot has happened in between then and now."
Q: "Those were good rivalries."
A: "They were, they were. You miss them. We talk about them at length. Local rivalries, in your hometownthey have their own psyche."
Q: "I wrote that you should go to Pittsburghthat was my suggestion."
A: "Oh yeah? They've got a good group of players there!" [laughs]
There were questions that Selanne answered for other media as wellmy translation again.
On the Ducks turnaround:
"I think everyone gets credit for it, at least a bit. Of course, it bothered me that our former coach had to go because of the mess we made, but our new coach has brought a lot of good things to the table, and now our whole group is pushing forward with a lot of confidence. That's all that was needed. Everyone's been doing their job, and that's how it's getting started. I've always said thatwhatever you do, and whoever you areif you don't have that self-confidence, nothing good will happen. All of us have a lot of confidence right now. We believe that it will come. Even tonight, down 2-0, no one panicked. We knew that we only needed a couple chances. Then we got them, and we even had a chance to win in overtime. Good teams find ways to come back."
On still scoring at a fantastic rate at age 41:
"Tonight, I have to say that my legs were pretty heavy, but if I look at the season, I'm definitely happy and pleased. It's exactly what I'm always hoping for from a season, to really enjoy it like this. I've certainly got no complaints. I've felt good overall. I can't complain."
On how the Ducks can make the playoffs:
"By playing exactly like we're doing now. We've got to press on and not let even a small bit of satisfaction creep in after good games. We need to keep pressing on, we need to stay hungry, and we need to pick up points every night. It's been a good sign that over the last 20 games, we haven't felt like we've faced a better team than us on the ice. That's a really good sign. Even in Detroit, we controlled the game, and we would have deserved a win. Those are good signs."
On whether he's 'hungry' to raise the Stanley Cup one more time, and whether he'd consider doing it in another uniform if Anaheim fell out of the running:
"Let's put it this way: the playoffs are the 'salt' of this sport. Whenever the season ends and you're eliminated from the playoffs, it takes something out of you
You play 80 regular season games and 10 preseason games before you even get to enjoy the playoff atmosphere. I'll say this: I've tried to completely shut that idea out of mind, because we've got a damn good run going. It would be selfish to start thinking otherwise as we've got such a strong push going, and a strong belief in what we're doing. With the way we're playing now, I luckily don't even need to think about it. Honestly, every guy here believes that we're going to do it. That's a sign of a good team. Of course, we'll proceed according to the situation. There really isn't anything else I can say about it. I'm asked about it everywhere I go, of course."
On whether the trade talk bothers him:
"No, it doesn't bother me at all. It's part of this sport and this job. But luckily, I haven't needed to think about it. If it were a 15-point deficit right now, then I'd have a different answer for you. But not right now. We've got tremendous belief, us players
That's how it should be. As awful as the beginning of the season was, as nightmarish as it was, you try to enjoy every moment now that it's going well. Better this way, for sure, be what may in the future. If the first half had gone like dream, and then you started flounderinglike Minnesotathen that would be even harder
then I couldn't retire for sure." [laughs]
When asked whether that was a not-so-subtle hint that he'd call it quits if the season ended well:
"No, but if things go poorly, it weighs heavily on you [laughs]. You'd definitely think about continuing if it was such an unhappy ending [laughs]. Well, let's not go that farI'm just joking around here." [laughs]
About the World Championships:
"Well, that's something that I haven't really thought out. I've decided in principle that it's a time for others now, a time for the younger generation. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I've learned to say that you should 'never say never'. But once again, it's a bit of the same answer as before: those are questions for later."
Finnish language coverage is available here.
Overall, my impression is that Teemu's feeling good and likes that he's still performing well. Add that together with the fact that he's a very competitive guy and I'd predict that he'll be back again next season.
It'll be interesting to see just how long he plays, and plays well. Selanne was already a first ballot Hall of Famer years ago, but now, a few more productive seasons could push him into very select company. By scoring his 657th goal on Sunday and passing Brendan Shanahan, Selanne moved into 12th overall in career goals. He ranked as the 14th-best forward of all time by GVT before the season started and is certainly within striking distance of the top 10 given another good season or two.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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