It's difficult to divert attention away from Teemu Selanne during a season in which he's posted an Anaheim Ducks-leading 51 points a season that may conclude his storied, 19-year NHL career.
If the 41-year old continues the scoring output he's demonstrated through the middle of February, he's going to come home to California having surpassed another local hockey legend.
Selanne is only three points behind Luc Robitaille for 20th all-time in NHL scoring heading into Tuesday's game at Minnesota. Currently tied with Brett Hull for 21st all-time with 1,391 points, Selanne has already passed Mike Modano, John Bucyk and Brendan Shanahan in the career ranks this season.
"Obviously, it's a very extraordinary group there," Selanne said. "That's why this league is so special."
And while a collection of ex-Kings and Ducks exists amongst the all-time top 20 scorers Wayne Gretzky is first, Marcel Dionne fifth, Paul Coffey 13th, Adam Oates 16th and Jari Kurri 19th Selanne and Robitaille are both pillars of their club's histories and players whose careers overlapped by 10 years in the Western Conference and by five years as Southern California rivals separated by 26 miles of freeway.
"He blew us all away by his speed," Robitaille said of his earliest impressions of Selanne during the former Winnipeg Jet's magical 76-goal rookie season in 1992-93. "He came into the league and he's one of those guys who is very passionate about the game. So he came in the league and we were just enamored by this young guy coming in with that much speed and hands, obviously, that were incredible."
"You look at the history of our game, and I remember Mike Bossy's 50 goals and Joe Nieuwendyk getting to 50, and the next thing you know, he comes in and he gets over 70 goals as a rookie. It's truly incredible. You can't even fathom that idea. It doesn't even make sense. It's like a goal a game. "
Selanne scored in the shootout of a 2-1 loss in Detroit last Friday, a game that provided the hockey world a few hours of enjoying the two most remarkable 41-year olds in professional sports. Nicklas Lidstrom, whose 10 goals, 29 points and 26 rating is just as remarkable as Selanne's team-leading 51 points, drew the praise of the player whom he has competed against since 1992.
"I think Nick is a good example when you have enough passion for this game and you love this game," Selanne said to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. "You look after yourself and you enjoy the game, you can play a long time. I think a guy like him is a great example for everybody."
The references to Lidstrom's conditioning and drive to play the game are the exact qualities noticed by Robitaille in Selanne's current efforts. The work ethic, the commitment, the enjoyment of playing the game looks is all vintage Teemu.
"His discipline is probably the reason where he's at," Robitaille said. "He's one of those guys that loves the game. The passion for the game is there every day. You can clearly tell the way he's playing, the way he's jumping into those holes. "
"He's one of those players that could probably play another two or three years because of his conditioning. Obviously, he seems to have never lost his legs."
For the intuitive hockey sense that Selanne possesses, passing several of his contemporaries this year Shanahan, Modano, likely Hull and Robitaille shortly is a career marker that isn't lost on someone who grew up as such a student of the game. Another milestone is in sight as the highest scoring Finnish player and fellow Jokerit alum Jari Kurri sits seven points ahead of Selanne's current total with 1,398 points.
"It's overwhelming," Selanne said. "When I was young, all those players I used to watch how they played, and I learned something, a lot of stuff from them, how they played the game, playing in different situations."
There was also special acknowledgement on Selanne's behalf of the local significance in nearing Robitaille's total, both for his on-ice performance and the contributions the King made in growing the sport throughout Southern California.
"It means a lot, obviously. Luc had an unbelievable career, and to be in the same category, it's a big honor. What he has done for hockey here, even after he's done, it's just a great atmosphere for hockey here. It's a big honor."