If anyone other than Bruce Boudreau was coaching the Anaheim Ducks, Teemu Selanne believes he would be reporting for training camp with his former teammates on Thursday morning and continuing his NHL career.
That is among a number of frank revelations contained in an authorized biography entitled “Teemu,” which has just been released in Finland. The book was written by journalist Ari Mennander with Selanne’s support and has been in the works for a decade. Sections translated into English were obtained by Sportsnet for this article and later cross-checked by two people who have read it.
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While the biography covers a range of topics including his personal life and parents’ divorce, it is a chapter detailing the late stages of his NHL career where he delves into significant detail about his differences with Boudreau.
Selanne felt that he never gained the coach’s trust and wasn’t given enough ice time to make an impact. Ultimately, he claims that it prompted him to begrudgingly walk away from the game just before his 44th birthday.
“If we had any other coach, I’d still play,” said Selanne.
It was pretty clear that the future Hockey Hall of Famer was fed up before the Ducks were eliminated in the second round of last year’s playoffs. The team topped the Western Conference with 116 points in the regular season but was knocked out by Los Angeles in a seven-game series.
Anaheim trailed the Kings 3-0 at the first intermission of the deciding game. Selanne knew that it would likely be the last of his NHL career and took out his phone between periods to text his wife and a couple friends: “f—ing joke.”
In his mind, Boudreau deserved most of the blame for that team’s failure to win a championship.
“It would have been wrong if we had won the Stanley Cup with a coach like that,” said Selanne.
After the loss, he went out for dinner with family and friends and spoke about Boudreau for four hours, according to the biography.
The book also reveals that Selanne considered contract offers from the Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings during the summer of 2013 because he wasn’t keen on another season under the Ducks coach. Ultimately, the two men sat down for a meeting where Selanne claims he was promised power-play time and around 15 minutes of ice time per night.
He ended up falling a little short of that mark with an average of 14:07.
“Everything started well, but then my ice time got smaller, just like the previous year,” said Selanne. “Anything Boudreau had said wasn’t true.”
Last season he became so distressed about not being included on the top power play unit that he urged a teammate to lobby the coach on his behalf. After an excellent showing at the Sochi Olympics, where he led Finland to bronze, Selanne was briefly elevated in the lineup only to see his minutes fall again.
The biography chronicles some of the specific discussions he had with Boudreau.
In one meeting just before the Olympics, Selanne said he left confused after being instructed to “give harder passes.” Following a Game 7 loss to Detroit in the 2013 playoffs, he claims that the coach apologized for giving him just 12:55 of ice time and told him that he had planned to use him more on the power play in the next round.
“That was an unbelievable explanation,” said Selanne.
What separates this book from so many others is the source of the information. Selanne is 11th in NHL history with 684 career goals and spent parts of 15 seasons playing for the Ducks. He won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim. The organization has plans to retire his No. 8 before a game against the Jets on Jan. 11 — an event owners Henry and Susan Samueli said will “pay tribute to a world-class player, ambassador and champion.”
While it wasn’t exactly an industry secret that Selanne craved a bigger role last season — he said as much on more than one occasion in Sochi — no one would have predicted this much candour from his book project. The biography is currently only available in Finnish, but there have been discussions about having it published in English.
Boudreau appeared on “Prime Time Sports” with Bob McCown after receiving a two-year contract extension last week and discussed his relationship with Selanne and Saku Koivu. He is the fastest NHL coach ever to win 300 games and acknowledged that having two legendary players at the end of their careers complicated his job.
“It was tough sometimes because they were both getting a little older and I was really conscientious of how much ice time I gave them,” Boudreau said. “I mean they’re both icons in the league and you don’t want to embarrass them by not playing them enough.”
(Attempts to reach Boudreau for this article were unsuccessful).
Despite the coach’s best efforts, Selanne was far from satisfied.
The tension came to a head between Games 3 and 4 of a first-round series with Dallas last spring when Selanne got word that he would be scratched the next night. It prompted a confrontation.
“I waited after everyone else had left the ice and skated to Boudreau,” he said. “I yelled at him right to his face with what I was thinking. I asked what he has against me. I told him that since he became our coach, he has not respected me one bit. You never put me on ice when we play 5-on-3 or 4-on-4 or when we are one goal behind in the end of the game. Be honest for one time and answer.
“He just stammered that decisions were not his alone and it was a group decision. I asked which group and he said GM and scouts. I yelled at him ‘Whoa, what kind of a coach are you if you don’t even decide the lineup?’ He tried to skate away but I just yelled that I wasn’t finished.
“I told Boudreau if you ever want to win something in a playoffs, you’re going to need me. Nobody else wants to win as much as me.”
As heated as the moment was, getting those feelings off his chest came with relief for Selanne.
“It felt really good,” he said.
While the biography notes that he didn’t have any issues with Boudreau as a person — “He is actually a nice man” — it’s clear that their working relationship was pretty strained. In summing up his final NHL season, one where Selanne scored just nine times in 64 games, the winger said: “You are as good as your coach wants you to be.”
The two men haven’t spoken since the argument in Dallas, according to the book.