Teemu Selanne has finally agreed to do the unthinkable.
Selanne, the NHL’s oldest player at 42, accepted coach Bruce Boudreau’s request to take a game off as the Anaheim Ducks visited the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
“Obviously, I don’t like to take too (many) days off, but I believe it’s a good thing,” said Selanne. “Of course, it’s never happened to me.”
The move was designed to make sure the Finnish Flash has plenty of dash as the Ducks return to the playoffs after missing the post-season a year ago.
In the past, he said, the schedule never allowed him to rest voluntarily, because Anaheim had games that mattered as the season came to a close. But the rejuvenated Ducks have already clinched the Pacific Division title, the second seed in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.
So Selanne was willing to rest in return for a chance to play in Anaheim’s final regular-season contest Saturday, at home against the Phoenix Coyotes, and get ready for the playoffs. He admitted the “brutal” lockout-compressed, 48-game regular season has taken its toll on him.
“The first 25 games, I felt good, and then, the second half, I was still grinding,” said Selanne, who has 11 goals and 12 assists in 45 games this season.
His energy level “has not been there” lately, but coaches, teammates and opponents alike marvel at his ability to excel when most of his peers are retired.
“It’s amazing that, at his age, he’s still one of the best players,” said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. “He’s got a knack for scoring goals – especially against us. He seems to find the net on a daily basis.”
“Teemu, he’s a guy that you can count on, because he’s been there, he’s done it, he’s won a Stanley Cup, and he’s been a primary player in this league for a long time,” said Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano.
The past few springs, Selanne has contemplated retirement as the season wound down. But he has deliberately avoided the question this year. With the demanding schedule, he would “probably have a negative experience thinking about next year.”
The Helsinki native was drafted 10th overall at age 18 by Winnipeg in 1988, but did not commence his NHL career with the Jets until the age of 22. He is in his second stint with the Ducks, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and has played for the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche.
So what does it mean to him to be the league’s oldest player?
“I’m very proud of that – to still be playing and competing at this level,” he said.
Selanne still does the same things to prepare that he did when he was younger, including massage treatments, stretching, and riding a stationary bike, but has to do more than in the past.
“When you’re young, you don’t have to pay attention to a lot of details – and the recovery, it’s so easy,” he said.
“It’s so funny how your body changes and how (many) little things you have to do when you get older. But at the same time, it’s a different challenge and you enjoy it more now. You appreciate it a bit more.”
But Ducks coach Boudreau said Selanne does not have an ounce of fat on him and “looks like he’s 30.” The Anaheim bench boss vowed earlier this season that he would force Selanne to take time off from practice, but has struggled to get him to reduce his on-ice workload.
“He hid my skates a couple times, or he tried to,” said Selanne. “But I’d rather skate for half an hour than ride the bike. (Skating’s) way more fun.”