Ducks' Selanne still going strong at 40
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)
Teemu Selanne says his mind is on an elevator.
Sometimes the 40-year-old Finnish Flash can't wait to retire to the sweet life with his wife and kids on the Orange County coast. Other times, he shares the thought of his fans and his fellow Anaheim Ducks: Why would somebody who's still so good even consider hanging up his skates?
''One day I feel like I could play 10 more years, and the next day I feel like, 'Why are you still doing this?''' Selanne said after his historic five-point performance against Colorado on Monday night. ''That's why I'm not even going to think about that during the season. It's better to think about those things after the season when you're stable and you have the whole picture of the season. But you know, I'm really enjoying this game.''
Not as much as the Ducks are enjoying his remarkable late-season scoring binge. Until Selanne decides where to stop this elevator, he's focused on taking Anaheim straight to the top floor.
After scoring two clutch goals in a key win over Dallas last week, Selanne had a hat trick and two assists in the Ducks' 5-4 win over the Avalanche, becoming the oldest player in NHL history with three goals and five points in a game. He has seven goals and 11 points in the past five games for the Ducks, who have won eight of 10 to move into seventh place in the West.
Selanne scored his first goal on a penalty shot in 18 years against the Avalanche, and the 14th-leading goal-scorer in NHL history also picked up his 700th assist. He's believed to be the oldest player in 31 years to score a hat trick, a feat not lost on even the Ducks' youngest player.
''He's a legend of the game, and I get to come to the rink with him and suit up and watch him every day,'' said rookie defenseman Cam Fowler, who was 15 months old when Selanne last scored on a penalty shot for the Winnipeg Jets. ''For him to put together the goals he has, and not just any goals, but really big goals, it's amazing to watch. It's something I'm going to remember for a long time.''
A year after he first postponed retirement, Selanne is playing even better. He's the league's eighth-leading scorer with 75 points during the third highest-scoring season by a player in his 40s in NHL history - only Gordie Howe (103) and Johnny Bucyk (83) managed more when they were 40.
Selanne's feats aren't for show, either: The Ducks have rallied into contention with six games left, starting Wednesday at ninth-place Calgary.
Although Anaheim winger Corey Perry has claimed the overall NHL goal-scoring lead with a similar surge down the stretch, Selanne's contributions from the Ducks' second line arguably are even more important. As Colorado coach Joe Sacco noted, Selanne and center Saku Koivu prevent opponents from focusing their full attention on Perry's superstar line with captain Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
''He's a special athlete doing special things at a really remarkable age,'' Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. ''He doesn't feel anywhere near the twilight of his career. The puck follows Teemu Selanne around. When he gets it, he has a knack for finding holes.''
According to Selanne, the regular-season grind isn't even the reason he might walk away this summer. It's just getting tougher every year to break away from his Ferraris, his golfing hobby, and his wife and four children in Finland or Coto de Caza, a gorgeous coastal suburb, to train during the offseason.
''When you get older, you have to do everything perfectly,'' Selanne said. ''The biggest difference is recovery time. Off the ice, you have to get enough rest, and have fluids and the right food. You have to be smart all the way, especially in the summertime. You have to work so hard and pretty much live for hockey, so that's why it's a big decision if I'm ready to push myself again. It's not easy, but I'm not getting any younger, so it's not going to be easier.''
Selanne already has his highest-scoring season since 2007, and the Ducks are looming as a nightmare playoff matchup for a higher-seeded opponent if they don't flop in their final six games. Anaheim didn't make the playoffs last season after winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, and Selanne cited another postseason run as a major motivation.
His teammates seem quietly confident they'll persuade Selanne to park the Ferraris again this fall, but they won't know for sure until their current ride ends.
''Oh, we'll talk to him about it,'' said Koivu, Selanne's close friend and fellow Finnish Olympian. ''I think the game is changing in that direction where you see more guys in their late 30s and 40s play because of the way they take care of themselves in the summer. We've said all along that it's not about his ability. It's about how long he wants to play. He's still going to have the ability.''