When he broke into the league, he was the machine gun goal scorer and skater so fast he was nicknamed the Finnish Flash.
By the end of his career he was hobbled by many injuries including reconstructive knee surgery but he finally would become known by the label he wanted to be remembered by: Stanley Cup champion.
Selected 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1988 Entry Draft but he didn't come over to North America until 1992-93. He remained in Finland playing for Jokerit while serving his mandatory military duty. He also spent 3 years doubling as a kindergarten teacher. No, I'm not kidding.
Selanne was well worth the wait for Winnipeg fans though. More mature than most rookies, he rewrote the NHL rookie record book in 1992-93. Playing on a line with Keith "Walt" Tkachuk and Alexei "Archie" Zhamnov, Selanne scored a league leading (tied with Buffalo's Alexander Mogilny) 76 goals, in the process smashing Mike Bossy's previous rookie record of 53 goals. He also registered 132 points, destroying Peter Stastny's old rookie mark of 109 points. Not surprisingly, Selanne won the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year.
"I remember every goal that year," he said. "I remember getting, like, two, three breakaways every game. Nowadays, you get three, four the whole season? That's pretty good."
Hockey certainly would change over the course of Selanne's career, preventing Selanne and all other players from challenging the 70 goal mark ever again.
The following season he would score just 25 goals in 51 games before his season was ended by a torn Achilles Heel. And in year three he'd score 24 goals in just 45 games as the NHL season was decimated by a labour dispute.
On February 7th, 1996, the Winnipeg Jets shocked the hockey world by trading their superstar forward to Anaheim with Marc Chouinard for Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and an exchange of draft picks. The financially strapped Jets knew they could not keep both Tkachuk and Selanne, and opted to move Selanne for a variety of reasons. His production had fallen to near mortal levels but there was always concern about his durability. He rarely played at 100% health, suffering from troublesome knee and back injuries. He was also criticized for his lack of intensity some nights during the NHL's clutch and grab era. Coach John Paddock once publicly referred to Selanne's play as "useless."
"When you can't use your speed you can't play at your level," Selanne said of the clutching and grabbing, and of his knee problems. "You lose the passion. You lose the fun coming to the rink. Every stride hurts. You try to take shortcuts. It's almost like surviving -- you can't enjoy it any more."
It was sad end to what should have been long and great career as the highest flying of the Jets, but Selanne would welcome the move to California. The winters were far move enjoyable than in Winnipeg or in Helsinki for that matter. He was better able to enjoy his classic car collection down in LA, including his Enzo Ferrari.
Selanne would also find hockey in sunshine to his benefit. Teaming with great friend Paul Kariya, Selanne became the mightiest of the Ducks, scoring 51, 52 and 47 goals in his first three seasons in Anaheim. His 52 goal year in 1999 led the league, earning him the inaugural Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal scorer.
Selanne would slow down to the 30 goal level, which encouraged the Ducks to trade him to San Jose at the trading deadline in 2001. But his two full seasons in San Jose were forgettable at best.
Selanne and Kariya decided to reunite and chase the Stanley Cup together in 2003-04, signing with the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche. The experiment failed miserably. Selanne, hobbled by knee injuries, scored just 16 times and was released at season's end.
The NHL lost an entire season in 2004-05 thanks to another labour dispute, but that may have been the best thing for Teemu. He had the necessary reconstructive knee surgery he needed and had the time to rehabilitate.
"When I went into surgery I thought there's no way I was going to come back if I don't feel as good as I felt my first 10 years," Selanne told Canadian Press. "It was a long process."
"Six or seven months after that, I was still concerned. Hard work and patience paid off. It was an unbelievable feeling to realize it's there again."
Re-signed by Anaheim, Selanne registered 40 and 48 goals while helping lead the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup championship! After 1041 NHL games, Selanne was finally a Stanley Cup champion, and just the 6th Finnish player to hoist the trophy.
Selanne was also a great international player. He is a 4 time Olympian, and was named as the best forward at the 2006 Olympics. He also participated in 4 World Championships and 3 Canada/World Cups.
Did you know? Teemu has a twin brother named Paavo. He was a junior ice and field hockey goalie who gave up sports to pursue education. He is now a teacher back in Finland.