Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/7/13
It started when he landed at the airport and continued when he reached the team hotel late Saturday night. At the morning skate the next day getting on the team bus back to the hotel — it just never seems to end. Wherever Teemu Selanne goes his fans follow. “He’s like the Pied Piper” Bruce Boudreau head coach of the Anaheim Ducks was saying Sunday afternoon. “Everywhere you go people love him.” Nowhere quite as much as here though. More than two decades after he first touched down in Winnipeg as No. 13 the Finn with the grin now 43 years young played his last NHL regular season game here Sunday — No. 8 in their programs No. 1 in their hearts. “This place is really really special” Selanne said. “Even (Saturday) night when we got to the hotel there was a lot of people waiting. That’s unbelievable.” Selanne’s Traveling Road Show has the feel of an iconic rock group’s farewell tour except all the groupies want is autographs. And there’s just one star. Everybody else may as well have been rolling trunks of equipment into the bowels of the rink and setting up the stage for the Finnish Flash. “It’s nice to be a roadie with Teemu” a grinning Dustin Penner said to a lone Winnipeg reporter as a crush of media waited for The Man just down the hall. “He’s the lead singer and it’s pretty special.” Normally a visit by a small-town Manitoba boy like Penner would garner a media scrum and cameras on its own. Not on this Sunday. Not when Hockey Holiness was in the house. Penner the big winger from Winkler who’s carved out his own nifty career — he’s actually got one more Stanley Cup ring than his more famous teammate — knows he’s lucky to be part of it. “I grew up watching him being from Manitoba and started my NHL career with him” Penner said recalling his first go-round with the Ducks. “And back then he was talking about retiring. And I was fortunate enough to come back and he’s still talking about retiring.” This time he means it. The grind of last year got to Selanne and while he could have continued to play it by ear putting off the decision until after the season he’s at peace with finally calling it a career. “Actually it was a a big relief when I said it was going to be my final” he said. “So everybody knows — my family fans teammates. I just felt now and especially how hard the year was last year it was easier to make a decision. And just put all the focus and energy for this year and that’s it.” While most rock stars quit way past their prime Selanne wants no part of being a dinosaur act living off past glories. Fifth in team scoring last season he’s agreed to sit out a game in each of the Ducks’ dozen back-to-back sets this season hoping to give 70 games of his best. Boudreau says that wasn’t as much of an arm-twister as it would have been a year ago when it was nearly impossible to convince Selanne to skip a practice let alone a game. “I hid his skates and then he found mine and put them on” Boudreau said. “If you know him he doesn’t want to take any days off. He’s so passionate about the game.” Selanne feels a little sheepish about his most passionate moment in a Jets uniform. What was that fuzzy-faced 22-year-old thinking? “When I broke Mike Bossy’s record — that’s the night you’re always going to remember” Selanne said recalling the day he scored his 54th goal as a rookie. “And when I threw the glove and shot it down. Now when I see it I feel a little bit embarrassed. But I was young and excited.” Now he’s old — and still excited.
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