Ducks’ Selanne still going strong at 40

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.”