ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ice hockey great Teemu Selanne managed to make a stir on the first day of the Anaheim Ducks’ training camp even after his retirement.
Coach Bruce Boudreau and Selanne’s former teammates reacted with disappointment and smiles on Thursday after hearing about Selanne’s fierce criticism of Boudreau in a new biography published in Finland.
Selanne retired at 43 years old over the summer following a 21-season NHL career spent mostly in Anaheim. His disagreements with Boudreau about his playing time and role last season were hardly secrets, but Selanne’s decision to air them in public surprised the Ducks.
"Nobody likes hearing anything negative about themselves, so in that sense I’m a little disappointed," Boudreau said. "But I understand the frustration."
Several media outlets obtained copies of the Finnish book and translated the passages criticizing Boudreau’s decisions regarding Selanne, who felt betrayed by his dwindling role in his final season. Selanne, who flirted with retirement for seven consecutive summers, even said he might have played another year if Boudreau wasn’t the Ducks’ coach.
Ducks general manager Bob Murray and captain Ryan Getzlaf backed Boudreau’s handling of Selanne’s final season on Thursday, saying they were aware of the Finnish Flash’s disappointments.
"He is such a competitor, and he was frustrated his last year didn’t go quite the way he wanted to go," Murray said. "It’s Teemu being Teemu."
Selanne issued a reconciliatory comment through the Ducks on Thursday after his book became a topic of discussion. He apparently worked on the book immediately after the Ducks were eliminated from the second round of the post-season by Los Angeles.
"In the book, I tried to explain honestly what happened last year," Selanne said. "In frustration, I made several comments following our Game 7 loss to the Kings that I shouldn’t have said. As I’ve said many times, Bruce is a nice guy, but we simply had a different view on my role with the Ducks. I’m sorry if I hurt Bruce or anyone else. That was not my intent."
Boudreau acknowledged he was caught between the wildly popular Selanne’s opinion of his skills and his own desire to maximize the Ducks’ scoring in a successful season. Anaheim finished atop the Western Conference before its second-round playoff exit to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Kings.
Selanne scored a career-low nine goals in 64 games during his final season, but said he was promised more playing time on the second line and on the power play. His skills still appeared sharp at the Sochi Olympics, where he was named the tournament MVP while winning a bronze medal as Finland’s captain in his sixth games.
Selanne is the 11th-leading goal-scorer in NHL history with 684 goals, and his 1,457 points are 15th.
"I was always very cognizant of who he was, what he meant to hockey in California, what he’s meant to the Ducks, and he was a great player," Boudreau said.
Selanne wrote that he was furious after Boudreau scratched him for Game 4 of the Ducks’ first-round playoff series against Dallas, leading to a post-practice confrontation on the ice. Boudreau downplayed the incident.
"He raised his voice a bit, and all I did was tell him, ‘OK, not so loud,"’ Boudreau said. "’Let’s talk like men.’ And then he stopped and he caught himself, because he’s an emotional guy."
Selanne’s healthy scratch was extremely unpopular with Ducks fans, but Boudreau said he consulted with Anaheim’s scouts and other front-office personnel before making the move. Boudreau told Selanne about the scratch a day before the game, leading to the argument.
"It was a really tough thing," Boudreau said. "I don’t think any coach wants to sit out a superstar."
Selanne had two goals and four assists in 12 playoff games.
Getzlaf said he was disappointed to hear Selanne hoped the captain would stick up for him in meetings with Boudreau and the Ducks’ brass. Getzlaf and Corey Perry frequently teamed with Selanne on the Ducks’ top power play unit, but not frequently enough for Selanne’s taste.
"I’m going to have to talk to him about it as friends," Getzlaf said. "But Teemu had numerous discussions with me last season, and the season before. As a captain, it’s my job to weed through things that I can go to the coach with, and things that I can’t. Teemu doesn’t know all the discussions that I’ve had about him in the last two years, and there’s been many times when I’ve went to bat for him, and there are some times when I have to step away and just let the coach and GM make their decision."
Selanne and his family still live in Orange County, and the Ducks will retire Selanne’s No. 8 jersey before a game against the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 11. Boudreau, Murray and Getzlaf are confident Selanne’s gripes won’t turn him away from the franchise that made him into an ice hockey icon.
"I’m sure I’m going to see him again," Boudreau said. "And listen, he was one of my favourite guys. I’ve always liked him and admired him. I don’t think anyone here has ever heard me say a bad word about him, ever. And that will continue."