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Teemu like a fine Finnish wine

Oldest NHLer getting better in the twilight of his career

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/1/2013 (1674 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CALGARY -- Teemu Selanne is drinking up the last sweet drops of his NHL career.

At 42 years, six months and 16 days, Selanne is the oldest active player in the league this lockout-shortened season.

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press Archives
Teemu Selanne celebrates his second goal against Vancouver in the season opener. He finished with four points.


Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press Archives Teemu Selanne celebrates his second goal against Vancouver in the season opener. He finished with four points.

The Anaheim Ducks winger has the air of a man enjoying an extended youth that he knows is rare and limited in professional sports.

"When you're older, you know there's not going to be much left," Selanne said Monday in Calgary prior to the Ducks taking on the Flames.

"You know it's the end of the road and it's right to enjoy every day. The older you get, you start to enjoy the little things and different stuff than when you're 22."

But Selanne isn't looking or acting his age. He scored two goals and had two assists in Anaheim's 7-3 win over Vancouver to open the season. That made him the oldest player to produce a four-point game since Gordie Howe in 1971.

Selanne was also the oldest player to appear in all 82 games last season, with 26 goals and 40 assists in his 20th NHL campaign.

"The Finnish Flash" is a fit and muscular six feet and 196 pounds. There are laugh lines around his eyes, but no grey hairs on his head.

Flames coach Bob Hartley compares him to Brad Pitt's character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, living a life from death to birth instead of the reverse.

"Selanne is going the wrong way," Hartley said. "It seems he's getting younger year by year."

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau defies any sport to produce a 42-year-old athlete performing as well as Selanne.

"If you see it in baseball, he's a pitcher, might be a relief pitcher or the knuckleball pitcher that the Jays got. But he's not 42. He's 39," Boudreau said, referring to R.A. Dickey, who is actually 38.

"In football, he'd be a kicker. In tennis, they can't play that long. In soccer, I don't know of anybody over in Europe that's that age.

"I'm not trying to brag for my player, but that's an amazing, amazing feat what he's doing at his age, playing at the level that he's playing that. I think he's the greatest athlete in the world for his age."

Selanne revealed the secret to his longevity in the NHL.

"I enjoy playing, I'm pretty healthy still and playing with great players. Those are the combinations that usually work," the Helsinki native said. "There's a lot of things you've got to do well and I'm very proud I'm still able to play against these young guys at this age."

When Selanne made his NHL debut with Winnipeg in 1992-93, he expected to spend only three or four seasons in the league before returning to Europe.

He's played for the Jets, Ducks, San Jose Sharks and spent a year with the Colorado Avalanche before returning to the Ducks, with whom he's begun a 13th season. Selanne has 665 goals and 745 assists in 1,342 games and won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2008.

He felt his body grinding to a halt about a decade ago and that also contributes to his appreciation of playing the game now.

"The Colorado year was very tough for me and a couple years earlier when my knee was not that good, I almost lost the passion for hockey," he said. "When you can't do normal things and you can't enjoy the level that it used to be, that really opened my eyes.

"When I came back and I felt healthy again, it was just an unbelievable feeling. At that point I said 'Every day I can come and be healthy and can play this game we love, I'm going to be thankful for that.' "

Selanne admits his recovery from a game is slower now. Boudreau says he'll often tell the Finn to take a day off from practice only to turn around and see Selanne on the ice.

"That's the hardest part because I like to skate every day," Selanne said.

-- The Canadian Press


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