It was perhaps fitting that Paul Kariya learned of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame from Teemu Selanne.
Selanne called his former teammate before chairman Lanny McDonald could deliver the news, and was even hoping Kariya might pick up the tab for a private plane north to Toronto for the fall ceremony.
The long-time Ducks duo are going into the hall together — joined in the 2017 class by Mark Recchi and Dave Andreychuk, along with women’s legend Danielle Goyette and builders Jeremy Jacobs and Clare Drake.
“The chemistry that we had, it was magical every night,” Selanne said on a conference call.
Added Kariya: “If I didn’t get the opportunity to play with him, I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame so I’m very thankful.”
The two bowled over opponents for six seasons in Anaheim, a terrifying blend of speed and creativity with Kariya on the left and Selanne on the right. In their first full campaign together as Ducks, the duo mustered 95 goals combined. They added 86 more as a duo in 1998-99 and 75 in 99-00.
“Teemu always joked that I could read his mind,” said Kariya, the first-ever Ducks draft pick. “Off the ice, it wasn’t hard to read: he was always watching Baywatch shows.”
On the ice, Kariya felt like he knew where Selanne was without looking.
The two remain friends to this day and Selanne is hopeful he can reel Kariya into a more active role in hockey. Healthy and free of the concussion problems which ended his career — though not exactly sure where he’d fit in hockey — Kariya says he surfs three to four times a week when in California and enjoys winter sports when he’s back home in B.C.
“One of my missions are that I’m going to get Paul somehow back in (the) business because I know he can make a big difference here,” said Selanne, who retired from the NHL following the 2013-14 season.
Selanne’s career started without Kariya in Winnipeg, but with a bang no less.
The Finnish Flash set what is likely an unbreakable NHL record: 76 goals as a rookie. No other first-year player has managed even 60 and only four have cracked 50. Only four players, period, have ever scored more than 76 in one season: Wayne Gretzky (twice), Brett Hull, and Mario Lemieux.
Selanne’s 132 points, meanwhile, trailed only Gretzky (137) for tops in one season by a rookie.
“In that time I didn’t really realize what happened,” Selanne said of his debut season with the Jets, who drafted him 10th overall in 1988 and then traded him to Anaheim in 1996, shortly before a move to Arizona. “Now, the number (for goals) is just so big and I don’t know really how it happened.”
Selanne’s career was more defined by two separate stints with the Ducks, the latter — without Kariya — lasting the last nine seasons of his career. The two teamed up for a disastrous one-year reunion in Colorado with Selanne mustering a career-worst 32 points in 78 games.
Kariya went to Nashville from there and Selanne returned to Orange County where he rediscovered his star powers. At age 36, Selanne posted 48 goals and 94 points and then helped the Ducks to their first and only Stanley Cup in 2007.
He continued chugging along productively for years after that, even finishing eighth in league scoring with 80 points in 73 games in 2010-11 as a 40-year-old.
That sustained pattern of excellence is why Selanne’s career compares most closely — in terms of quality and shape — to Gordie Howe, according to Hockey-Reference.com. Only Howe and Jaromir Jagr scored more goals or points in the NHL past the age of 40 than Selanne, who finally retired at age 43.
Kariya’s counting stats fall well short of Selanne because of the early end to his career at age 35. But he was every bit the Finn’s equal when he was on the ice, totalling 402 goals and 989 points in 989 games. A five-time all-star, Kariya was also runner-up for league MVP in only his third season, beaten out by peak-level Dominik Hasek.
Selanne played 21 NHL seasons in all and ranked 11th with 684 goals and 15th with 1,457 points — both tops among Finnish players.
Selanne was also marvellous internationally for Finland, too, with four Olympic medals (three bronze and one silver) and the most points ever (43) among men at the Games.
His NHL career was defined more by its excellence over time than outright dominance — save, of course, for that sparkling rookie season.
Kariya’s career is remembered more for how it ended, but that belies the effectiveness of his 15 seasons. He joins Selanne as one of only 21 players since 1990 to register at least one point per-game (min. 500 games).
Recchi played even longer than Selanne — 1,652 games over 22 seasons — and stands as the NHL’s 12th highest scorer with 1,533 points. Andreychuk was another greybeard who played until he was 42, his best years coming with the Sabres and Maple Leafs during the 90’s.
Goyette won two Olympic golds for Canada, meanwhile, along with eight world championship crowns and Drake was a coaching legend, mostly on the Canadian university scene. Jacobs is the influential owner of the Boston Bruins.