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St. Teemu of Helsinki

Blog of the week: The Finnish Flash should be canonized

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A S I write this, Teemu Selanne is playing one of the final games in a long and stellar career. He is a shoo-in for a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but I will argue here that perhaps a greater honour should be bestowed upon him when the time comes.

The same day (last Sunday), two former popes were introduced into sainthood. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the canonization process involves scouring records around the world for two miracles that can be attributed to the individual that is to be declared a saint.

It is a somewhat farcical process where fortunate coincidences involving the individual are deemed to be miracles and subsequently used to justify a decision to canonize that has already been made. These incidences usually involve gravely ill people making an unexplained recovery after praying to, or being blessed by, the individual in question. Given the number of gravely ill people who look to high-profile religious figures for help, it would be a statistical anomaly if at least two so-called miracles did not occur.

If you ask me, the canonization process should be more like the process of appointing a judge to the Supreme Court. The appointment should be proposed by the Pope, then vetted by a council of wise bishops before becoming official. The whole "miracle" facade should be dispensed with. There is little chance it will be, however, so if this is the standard we’re setting, I think Teemu should be considered a future candidate.

Observe: miracle number one… A 10-year-old boy — a Ducks fan — with stage 4 terminal cancer.

"We were both out of hope, out of energy" explained the father. "And when Teemu and the other people came in the room it was like a fresh breeze, fresh air. It was like a prophet entered the room, an angel." Teemu made a promise to young Faryan that if he recovered from his illness, he would be a special guest of Teemu’s at a Duck’s game. 

The boy, inspired by Teemu’s promise, did recover against all odds, and Selanne kept his promise.

"All these little things makes the kid hopeful" said Faryan’s mother. "Athletes have lots of responsibilities on their shoulders, and for someone like him to go out of their way and provide this for society, it’s really fantastic." (Read the boy’s inspiring story at o35rlsm) It is nothing new for Teemu Selanne, though. The Finnish Flash has spent a great deal of time visiting and encouraging sick kids, both here in North America and back home in Finland where he has established a foundation to help sick children. No doubt many other kids have been touched by the aura of St. Teemu.

And if, by chance, a second miracle cannot be found in the records of the children’s hospitals, how is this for a miracle: The 43-year-old hockey player assisted on the first two Anaheim Ducks goals in a feisty playoff game against the Dallas Stars (last Sunday)… almost 22 years after scoring two assists in his very first NHL game in Winnipeg.

If that isn’t enough, here is even more evidence of his unique impact on people: After playing only 3½ years in Winnipeg, Selanne has made such an impression upon the city that crusty and bitter Winnipeggers perk up at the very mention of his name, diehard Jets fans don’t know who to cheer for when he comes to town… and at least one fan in Winnipeg has even gone so far as to suggest that Teemu should be inducted into sainthood.

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