December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Coach Bruce Boudreau's serious attempts to give 42-year-old Teemu Selanne a day off often play like a comedy routine inside the Anaheim Ducks dressing room.
"Bruce tried to hide his skates last week, so Teemu went in and got a new pair and went on the ice anyway," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said.
Selanne actually rummaged around until he found an old pair of skates he could use to join teammates at practice.
"I tried to hide behind the other guys, and (Boudreau) saw me and said, 'What are you doing out here?' "
What Selanne was doing was the same thing he has been doing since 1992, when he entered the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets. He was enjoying his work.
"He walks in the room, and he's full of life," Murray said. "What better for a young player to see ... this guy who is old enough to be their dad showing up every day at the rink and just going."
Selanne is five months shy of his 43rd birthday, and he's in the top 20 in the NHL scoring race with 15 points in 13 games entering Saturday play. He has two four-point games this season.
Ed Olczyk, who played with Selanne in Winnipeg two decades ago, says he marvels today at some of the same attributes that impressed him about Selanne years ago.
"If you watch him play, his hands are always ready to shoot," Olczyk said.
Olczyk, an NBC television analyst, noted that on a five-on-three Anaheim power play Tuesday the Chicago Blackhawks were paying the most attention to Selanne, who is Anaheim's top points leader.
"They were not going to allow that backdoor pass to the most dangerous player on the ice," Olczyk said. "You can pick your poison in those spots ... and they were not going to allow the pass to him. That's respect."
Olczyk said Selanne might have lost a step through the years. "But losing a step when you are Teemu Selanne means you are still as quick as more than half of the players in the league," Olczyk said.
The Selanne fountain of youth is a simple formula, according to Murray.
"He is in amazing shape, and he loves to play. People underestimate how important it is to love to play," said Murray.
Selanne said he didn't want to take any days off because that felt right to him.
"I feel better, even if I just skate 20 minutes," he said.
He said the 2004-05 lockout, which cost him a season, had a profound psychological impact on him. He has enjoyed the game even more since then, he said, because he now knows what it is like not to have hockey in his life.
"When I leave the rink, I do not bring hockey home," Selanne said. "I've always had a good balance with that. My mind is not on hockey when I'm away from the rink."
In terms of extending Selanne's value to the franchise, the 2012-13 lockout might have helped the Ducks. Selanne had nine months away from the game, and he was thrilled to be returning.
"I had more time with my family (because of the lockout)," Selanne said. "The 48-game season almost seems tailor-made for me."
Selanne said the only issue for him was that the compressed schedule made game-to-game recovery more challenging.
But the season being shorter and 2014 being an Olympic year give rise to the idea that Selanne might play again next season. He is sticking with his plan to re-evaluate after the season.
"I just want to play one season at a time, and I want to take four weeks and maybe six weeks to make a decision," Selanne said. "The hardest thing for me is to do the right things in the summer."
In the meantime, every time Selanne has a big offensive game, the name that will come up is Gordie Howe, because he's the patron saint of scorers who cheat the aging process. Howe is one of three NHL players to have a four-point game at 42 or older. He was MVP of the World Hockey Association at 46 and scored 100 points at 48 in the WHA.
Selanne shakes his head in disbelief at the mention of being compared in any way to Howe.
"If someone would have told me when I was a young boy about what was going to happen in my career," Selanne said, "I would have ordered a doctor for that guy."
-- USA Today
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 17, 2013 A1