SOCHI, Russia – The practice was long over, but Teemu Selanne continued to take a twirl around the ice at Bolshoy Ice Dome. Even he can’t believe he’s here for a sixth Olympic Games. Might as well soak it all in.
“Well now I know for sure it’s over,” Selanne said Tuesday.
Stop us if you’ve heard that before.
“All I remember is Salt Lake City (in 2002) I said I’m done after this, there’s no way I’m going to be in Torino (in 2006),” he acknowleged. “So I went to Torino, I went to Vancouver (in 2010). I would bet anything that after Salt Lake City that I wouldn’t play in Sochi.
“That’s how things work when you enjoy this. You have fun and good things happen.”
Basically the only thing missing from his storied career is an Olympic gold medal. Selanne and the Finns came close – losing 3-2 to Sweden in the gold-medal final in 2006 – and they’ll be in the underdog role once again here in Sochi.
Injuries to centres Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula will severely test their depth. Teenager Aleksander Barkov, who wasn’t even born when Selanne played his first NHL game, will be in the middle on the top unit with Mikael Granlund and Selanne on his wings.
No matter what happens here, the 43-year-old Selanne is certain to enjoy it. He brings a perspective to this event that few other players could match.
“I think anything you do for the last time it’s going to be emotional because a lot of times you don’t know it’s your last,” said Selanne. “There’s still a lot of things you wonder about what could happen after. But when you know it’s your last you try to take everything in. You see things differently.
“It’s just been an unbelievable journey in my national career and ending it here, it’s a perfect way.”
This is widely believed to be Selanne’s last year of hockey. He has just seven goals in 47 games for the Anaheim Ducks this season – bringing his career NHL total to an astounding 682 – but his biggest contribution to every team is his experience.
He plans to try and share that with younger Finnish teammates during the Olympics.
“It’s awesome,” said Selanne. “I try to remind these young guys enjoy every moment, your career goes fast and you don’t know what’s going to happen, so try to handle things, try to appreciate things and be thankful for what you have because this is a dream come true for so many guys.
“A lot of guys don’t realize it before it’s going to be the end, so live the moment and enjoy it.”