VANCOUVER – One of the greatest Olympic hockey careers came to a close last night when Teemu Selanne skated off the ice with a bronze medal around his neck.
And even though he has reneged on retirement before, Selanne said he will almost certainly draw the curtain on his NHL career after this season.
“When you win the last game, it’s a dream come true,” Selanne said after Finland’s 5-3 win over Slovakia in the bronze medal game. “You know what? I think this is going to be my last year. For sure it’s my last Olympics, last national team game. I learned over the years to never say never, but I really think this is my last year (in the NHL).”
Selanne is a five-time Olympian who won bronze three times (1994 in Lillehammer, 1998 in Nagano and 2010 in Vancouver) and silver once (2006 in Turin) to add to a remarkable NHL career that should make him a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in 2013 if he retires after this season.
He had only two assists in the Olympic tournament, but it was enough to make him the all-time leading scorer in Olympic history with 20 goals and 37 points. Selanne turns 40 this summer and after winning the bronze, he reflected on his outstanding international career, that also includes a second place finish in the World Cup in 2004.
“Winning this last game is huge,” Selanne said. “I’ve been here 23 years and if you add the World Cup, we have done some unbelievable things. If somebody would tell me before this happened what’s going to happen, I would just call the doctor and ask this guy to get some treatments. It’s an unbelievable feeling and I’m so proud to be part of it.”
While the Slovaks winning the bronze medal would have made for an incredible story, Finland has written a pretty remarkable tale of its own. With bronze medals in 1998 and 2010 and a silver in 2006, Finland is the only country to win three medals in the NHL-participation era. And while the Finns never managed to capture a gold medal, it is a remarkable feat for a country so small and with so few players in comparison to the other hockey powers.
“We play for each other,” Tuomo Ruutu said. “We’re proud to be Finnish and we’re proud to play with each other. I don’t think we have the biggest stars, but I can say we have a pretty good team. That has always been a strength of ours and it was our strength in this tournament.”
Like its opponent in the semifinal, Finland faces an increasingly difficult time staying with the world hockey powers. Countries such as Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are simply not producing NHL players at the rate they have in the past, but Selanne remains optimistic.
“I think it’s time for the young guys to step up and take some responsibility,” said Selanne. “I think it’s time to get some new players somehow. It is their time.
Ken Campbell is in Vancouver covering the Olympic hockey tournaments for THN.com. Read his other reports HERE.
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