Ducks' Teemu Selanne reflective after abrupt end to NHL career

Ducks' Teemu Selanne reflective after abrupt end to NHL career
Kings center Anze Kopitar embraces Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne, who played his final NHL game in a 6-2 loss on Friday night at Honda Center in Anaheim. Selanne is retiring at age 43 after 23 seasons. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Teemu Selanne's devoted followers wanted a perfect ending.

He, and they, were denied that — by the Kings' emphatic 6-2 victory over the Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday night — and so began the next phase for the charismatic Ducks winger after his final NHL game. His postgame session with reporters was one part reflection on a disappointing finish, one part memory lane and another part involved questions about his future.

"It's a tough feeling," Selanne said. "You want to go further. We felt we had the chance to go next round, maybe all the way. It's going to be tough to wake up tomorrow morning and realize it's all over.

" . . . One way, it feels like yesterday, but in another way, it feels like a long time ago — and it goes fast. I always tell the young guys, enjoy every day because you know what? It goes like that — so quickly."


And was it for the future Hall of Famer? Was he truly done at age 43? The questions were almost tinged with a little hope maybe he would play, well, somewhere next season. Any truth to the rumor he might play in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League?


"I don't think so," he said.

Perhaps going back to the beginning, playing for his hometown club in Finland, Jokerit?

"I know there is a lot of interest for that," he said. "But I've always said I'm going to retire here and to be honest, I don't really have to play anywhere anymore."

The fans didn't want him to leave, giving him a standing ovation after the game ended. There were wonderful moments in the end-of-series handshake line between the Kings and the Ducks. The Kings have gotten to know Selanne through the years, mostly when the teams practiced together during the lockout last season.

They stayed on the ice and honored Selanne, tapping their sticks on the ice, a class move and tribute to an NHL brother. Selanne used the word "unbelievable" several times to describe the special gesture by the Kings.

"It's sad, that guy has been an unbelievable player in this league for so long. Everyone respects him," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "He deserves that respect. To see him go . . . to know that next year we'll play Anaheim without him out there is going to feel weird."

Said Kings forward Justin Williams: "There's not many guys left in the league that have earned the respect and admiration — not only of the fans, but of the players he's played against. We would have stood out there for 20 minutes if we could."

The Ducks were crushed by the loss and the way Selanne's vaunted career ended.

"There's nothing really to say at this point," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "It's tough. It's not the way we wanted to send him off."

Selanne's close friend, countryman and teammate, Saku Koivu, is also contemplating the future but said he had not made a decision.

"You are going to feel sorry for yourself for a while and then you get back to normal life," Koivu said. "I really don't have an answer for you . . . [just] really take a good, careful look."

Selanne knew there would be no middle ground on Friday at Honda Center.

"Obviously very disappointing," he said. "I knew that it was going to be either unbelievable big party or huge disappointment."