This excerpt from Teemu Selanne: My Life by Teemu Selanne with Ari Mennander is published with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org, or www.triumphbooks.com/TeemuSelanne.
In the 81st game of the regular season, the Los Angeles Kings organized one of the finest celebrations of Teemu and gave him a personalized surfboard as a present. But because of Boudreau’s plan not to play Selanne in back-to-back games, he wasn’t in the lineup against the Kings. The Ducks were going to close out the season at home against the Colorado Avalanche the next night.
Ryan Getzlaf didn’t play in the last game, nursing injuries and resting before the playoffs, so Teemu captained the Ducks in the last regular season game of his storied career.
“It was a great honor and felt really good,” he said.
The Ducks beat the Avalanche 3–2 in overtime and the crowd couldn’t get enough of Teemu, who played more than 18:00.
After the game, Teemu stayed on the ice, and skated around to say goodbye and thank you to the fans. “These Ducks fans have been so special and so kind for me. I have always had so special relationship with our fans, and it feels so good to share all the great moments with them.
“And then I saw [Avalanche goalie and former teammate Jean-Sebastien Giguere] Jiggy on the Avs bench, and I grabbed him and we did couple of laps together and celebrated also his career, which was ending after the season as well. Jiggy has been huge part of Ducks organization and has been very important player for the fans. And for me truly a friend and teammate with whom I had great years together. And of course, he was the Stanley Cup–winning goalie for us.”
The fans appreciated seeing their favorite NHL superstars, and the crowd went wild.
Selanne’s last game even managed to get Paul Kariya, who retired in 2010, to make a rare public appearance. Kariya came to the Honda Center to watch his hockey soulmate play his last regular season game.
“I invited him to the game and he watched it from my suite together with another great friend, Joe Sakic. It meant a lot to me that these two guys were there,” Teemu said.
Anaheim’s regular season record was the best in franchise history. The Ducks won 54 games, won their division and the Western Conference, and finished second overall in the league, behind the Boston Bruins.
But Boudreau failed to guide the team past the second round. His Washington Capitals advanced to the second round twice in his four years as coach, and the Ducks had now gotten to the second round just once.
They won their first two home games in the first-round series against the Dallas Stars but lost Game 3 in Dallas 3–0. The next day
Teemu woke up to receive the biggest humiliation of his career when Bruce Boudreau made him a healthy scratch in Game 4. He had been a healthy scratch once before, in a playoff game in Colorado, but this was worse. He was in Anaheim, his happy place. His home.
According to Boudreau, the team needed more physicality, and Emerson Etem filled the Teemu-sized hole. The 22-year-old had played 29 regular season games for the Ducks and had 11 points.
Selanne was shocked but not completely surprised, since he had been benched for long stretches during Game 3, getting only 10:00 on the ice. Boudreau had told him about the change the day before Game 4.
Throughout his career, the even-mannered Selanne had never criticized a coach or even raised his voice, let alone screamed at one, but there is always a first time for everything.
He waited until the other players had left the ice and skated to where Boudreau was standing.
“And then I let it go. I told him exactly how I had been feeling, and I wanted to get answers why this has happened. He was trying to explain something but actually it didn’t make sense to me at all.
“Bruce is a super-nice guy but there was something weird. There was something that he didn’t tell me. I told him that if he wanted to win something, he needed me. Nobody else wanted to win as much as I did. Then I dissed him. I got two years’ worth of frustration out of my system. I didn’t feel good to say these things, but I felt I had to,” Teemu said.
A few years later, Boudreau and Selanne sat down over a beer to see whether they could patch things up.
“I asked him to tell me what really happened. He said, ‘Teemu, the only thing I could say is it wasn’t all my decision.’ He mentioned something that the scouts and GM were part of decision-making.”
Boudreau later tried to lessen the tension with Teemu.
“Nobody likes hearing anything negative about themselves, so in that sense I’m a little disappointed,” Boudreau told the media. “But I understand the frustration.”
“I’m sure I’m going to see him again. And listen, he was one of my favorite guys. I’ve always liked him and admired him. I don’t think anyone here has ever heard me say a bad word about him, ever. And that will continue.”
The Stars won Game 4 in Dallas 4–2 and Teemu returned to the lineup for Game 5. The Ducks advanced to the second round against the Los Angeles Kings, but not much had changed in the coach’s mind.
The Kings took away the Ducks’ home-ice advantage by winning the first two games in Anaheim, but Teemu still didn’t get more ice time.
Eemil Selanne, then 18, took to Twitter to support his father.
During the Stars series, he tweeted: “ROSTER MOVE: Bruce Boudreau has been reassigned to Norfolk Admirals (AHL).” He later deleted the tweet, but the message was already out there. The Selannes were on the warpath.
Sirpa was just as upset on social media, telling her Facebook friends the Ducks were going to be in big trouble.
The Ducks won three straight games against the Kings, first 3–2 with Selanne scoring what would be the last goal of his career, and then 2–0 and 4–3.
The Ducks had a chance to clinch the series, but the Kings won Game 6 at home 2–1.
Game 7 was either going to be a great triumph for the Ducks or the last game of Teemu’s career. He didn’t give any interviews the day before the game because he didn’t want to distract the team.
“I didn’t want anybody starting to think too much about some player’s maybe last game or stuff. It’s not about that, you know. It’s all distractions. The focus should be this game, and only this game,” he said after the morning skate.
The game turned out to be Teemu’s last. . .and the furthest thing from a Ducks triumph. The Kings scored three unanswered goals in the first period. Teemu texted Sirpa, Syvahuoko, and his friend Mike Pagano during the first intermission: “[F—–g] joke.”
Los Angeles won 6–2, sending Selanne into retirement bitter and frustrated.
He did get the farewell he deserved, though, as he was on the ice for the last 1:00 of play and the entire crowd, both Kings and Ducks fans, gave him a standing ovation. Both teams stayed on the ice after the game to pay their respects to the 43-year-old legend.
“I always remember the Kings players staying on the ice and clapping. It was so classy from their side. It was emotional and it was not the way I was thinking of going out. It was an emotional and melancholic moment. The Kings players were classy, every single one of them came to congratulate me on a great career,” Teemu recalled.
He kept it together on the ice, but as he stepped off it and high-fived fans on his way to the tunnel, he saw his son Leevi in the crowd and burst into tears.
“I realized it was truly the end. I had to calm myself down for a while before going into the dressing room,” he said.
Afterward, he spoke with the media patiently, but he kept his emotions to himself.
“It’s been a fantastic journey and I could never have imagined, not even in my wildest fantasies, that I’d get to have a career like this. It’s hard to understand that something I’ve done since I was a kid has now come to a sudden stop.
“There’s nothing wrong in the relationship between Bruce Boudreau and me. We just have a difference of opinion on what kind of a player I am. I know I could still be a first-line player, but this is the right time to retire.”
While Selanne was answering reporters’ questions, his family and friends were waiting for him at the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 restaurant at the Honda Center, and they were joined by Ducks player Saku Koivu and Francois Beauchemin.
And when Teemu joined them, he quickly summed up his feelings.
“This team deserved so much better. It was so disappointing to finish my career this way. I really believed that this team had all the tools to win the Stanley Cup,” he said.