Classy Teemu Selanne says goodbye in typical fashion
ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was a moment etched in Anaheim and hockey lore.
Teemu Selanne, the 21-year veteran, consummate professional and Orange County legend, grabbing his good friend and former teammate Jean-Sebastien Giguere and skating hand-in-hand as a sellout Honda Center crowd cheered.
The two of them brought prominence to an expansion organization once known primarily for the Disney movie it was originally named after. But the two of them helped bring a Stanley Cup to Anaheim in 2007 at the peak of their illustrious careers.
Nearly seven years later, both of those careers are coming to an end.
"When I saw Jiggy I said, ‘Now. This is the time.’ We’ve had a great journey together and we’re good friends," Selanne said. "It was an honor to share this night with him. I’ll remember this night forever."
But Giguere, who minded the net in Anaheim from 2000-2010 and still holds nearly every major goaltending record with the club, didn’t intend for it to be a shared celebration. He didn’t want to take the attention off of his friend but Selanne insisted.
"Teemu is such a class act," Giguere said. "He’s known for a while that this could be my last game… I almost felt guilty because this is his night. But it was nice to share it for a bit."
The right winger was traded to Anaheim midway through the 1995-1996 season. He called the transaction "The best thing to ever happen" to him. He skated on Paul Kariya’s line and the duo helped lead the new club to its first-ever postseason berth.
Kariya, somewhat reclusive now in his post-playing days, was in attendance after a personal invite by Selanne.
"I told him (Saturday) night I wanted him here, even if it’s only for one period," Selanne said. "It’s very special for me… He was the only player I really invited, I told him I don’t take no for an answer. It was surprising, but I told him he had no options."
Selanne left Anaheim for a few seasons before returning before the 2005-2006 season. Every time it looked like his skills were diminishing, he would answer back; a strong season, a good postseason and this year, an Olympic Games MVP award.
The fan favorite, he announced his retirement in a video that showed his less than stellar golf skills, and it was quintessentially Teemu.
On Sunday night, his fans honored him by standing for each of his third-period shifts.
"I think it just comes natural for him to be nice and do the nice thing to people," Giguere said. "That’s why everybody loves Teemu."
The Finnish Flash had known his days were numbered since he released the video last spring. He has had all season to come to terms with his retirement and was able to be a part of history in the NHL Stadium Series game against the Kings at Dodger Stadium back in January.
Yet still, the finality of it all sunk in as he skated around the Honda Center ice with Giguere. It’s not the end of the road just yet — he will play in the postseason — but the end is nearing closer and time isn’t slowing.
"Now it’s going to be harder," Selanne said. "Especially when there is a first tying game on the line, it’s going to be way tougher than tonight. This was almost like a free pass. But it’s time to enjoy it."
The outpouring of support was almost overwhelming. He wanted so badly to score a goal for his fans and his family in attendance. He had no explanation for his daughter, who pointed at him in the dressing room after the game and told him, "You’re in big trouble!"
But he has time to score one more. And going out the way he did with Giguere was a touching moment that reminds you why sports are great. Friendships, championships and competition — it was all embodied in that final moment on the ice in Anaheim.
"I’m glad there were no cameras on me because I was crying," said Ducks’ head coach Bruce Boudreau. "How can I not? That was as great a scene as you’re going to see in sports: Two well-deserved heroes of hockey hugging each other after battle. To me, that’s what it’s all about."
"It’s surreal a little bit," Giguere said. "He has meant so much for the Ducks. People, every time he was on the ice, gave him a standing ovation. That is very special. For him to think of me and come and get me, that is something very special for me and I will never forget that."