More love for Teemu

Se­lanne takes fi­nal vic­tory lap in Helsinki as Fin­land re­tires his No. 8

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FRONT PAGE - By John Chidley-Hill

HELSINKI — Teemu Se­lanne has put on the blue and white of Fin­land’s na­tional jer­sey one last time. Se­lanne skated around the ice at Hart­wall Arena in full Olympic gear and waved to cheer­ing fans Wed­nes­day as his No. 8 jer­sey was re­tired by the Fin­nish na­tional team dur­ing a pre-game cer­e­mony be­fore Fin­land faced Slo­vakia at the world ju­nior hockey cham­pi­onship.

“It was really spe­cial to me,” said Se­lanne of the cer­e­mony. “The na­tional team has been a very im­por­tant part of my life. I had a chance to play 30 years for the na­tional team. I’ve been very proud to put that jer­sey on ev­ery time when I’ve played.

“Tonight was a great hon­our. Shar­ing that with the im­por­tant peo­ple in my life and the fans was very ‘Tonight was a great hon­our. Shar­ing that with the im­por­tant peo­ple in my life and the

fans was very spe­cial’ spe­cial.”

The 30-minute cer­e­mony be­gan with the phrase “Sel8nne For­ever” pro­jected on to the ice, fol­lowed by child­hood pho­tos flash­ing across the rink. Big cheers and ap­plause spread through the stands as the video screen showed him drive up to Hart­wall Arena — the home of Jokerit, his for­mer team.

Af­ter fam­ily and friends as­sem­bled on the ice, Se­lanne skated out to the theme from Back to the Fu­ture, skat­ing around the rink in his na­tional team uni­form to a stand­ing ova­tion.

Kalervi Kum­mola, chair­man of the Fin­nish Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion and vice-pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion, ad­dressed the crowd, then Se­lanne spoke.

“I told the fans that there’s no words to thank them,” said Se­lanne. “The crowd was great. I’ve al­ways had great re­la­tions with the fans and they’ve been sup­port­ing me so well over the years, there’s no words for that.”

A ban­ner bear­ing Fin­land’s coat of arms and Se­lanne’s name and the No. 8 was raised to the rafters of the arena as Se­lanne, his wife Sirpa Vuori­nen, and two of their chil­dren looked on. He then took an­other lap around the ice, again wav­ing to the cheer­ing crowd.

Al­though No. 8 is syn­ony­mous with Se­lanne in Fin­land, he came to the num­ber by chance.

“It just came to me ran­domly,” said Se­lanne. “When I was a lit­tle kid and the coach gave the jer­seys out I got the No. 8. The funny thing is the No. 8 has al­ways fol­lowed me.

“Our first ad­dress was No. 8, my first mo­tor­cy­cle the li­cence plate was UC 8, it’s weird how it works like that but it’s al­ways been my favourite.”

Se­lanne, who set an NHL rookie record with 76 goals in his de­but sea­son for the Win­nipeg Jets in the 1992-93 sea­son, said he was ex­cited to watch the world ju­nior cham­pi­onship in his home­town of Helsinki. He be­lieves the level of com­pe­ti­tion of ju­nior hockey around the world is dras­ti­cally bet­ter than when he played for Jokerit’s ju­nior and se­nior teams.

“What they do th­ese days in the ju­nior hockey, the play­ers are so much more ready at an early age as when I played,” said Se­lanne dur­ing the first in­ter­mis­sion of the Fin­landSlo­vakia game. “They play al­most as many games in ju­nior as they do in the NHL.

“I think that’s one of the rea­sons they’re so much more ready than we are. It’s great to see young guys com­ing and be­ing so ready right away.”

Se­lanne com­pleted his NHL ca­reer with 684 goals and 773 as­sists over 22 sea­sons with Win­nipeg, Ana­heim, San Jose and Colorado.

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