Retiring Teemu Selanne’s jersey before any other member of the Ducks was not only the right thing to do but the only thing, according to several of his former teammates who returned to Anaheim for Sunday’s retirement of Selanne’s familiar number 8 at the Honda Center.
“You couldn’t think of anybody else being first,” said retired goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who played alongside Selanne on the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup championship team and was drawn into a farewell lap around the rink last April when each man played his final regular-season game.
“I think he’s deserving of that with everything that he’s done for the organization, the career that he had, the amount of goals and points and just the personality that he has. Everybody knows that Teemu is one of the nicest persons you’ll ever meet. He’s very deserving.”
It’s also appropriate, Giguere said, that Selanne’s retired jersey will help establish a sense of tradition for a franchise that is barely two decades old.
“It’s still a very young organization, and being from Montreal you know the tradition there is so big and it’s built over 100 years, so it’s nice to see it’s starting slowly with the Ducks,” said Giguere, who is living in Montreal and doing some TV commentary.
“It started with the Stanley Cup win in 2007 and Temu’s getting his jersey retired, and this is how you start a history. Hopefully there’s many more good moments for this organization, and I believe there will be.”
Steve Rucchin, longtime center for Selanne and Paul Kariya, didn’t hide how moved he was to be at Sunday’s ceremony.
“It’s a huge night. It’s an honor just to be a part of it,” he said. “This is a big deal. These things don’t happen every day. If you go around the league, how many of these jerseys do you see in the rafters? This is a huge deal, just the fact that I was able to be a teammate and, more importantly, call him a friend, it’s a huge honor for me to be here….
“Just having the opportunity to play with a guy like that, to have him as a linemate and a teammate, is a huge honor. I’m just very fortunate that I was in position and had the opportunity to play with a guy like that. I just tried to keep out of his way as much as I could.”
Rucchin said he tried his best to persuade the reclusive Kariya to attend but said Kariya had long ago committed to a family ski trip. Several other players also tried to sway Kariya and, unfortunately, failed.
Hall of Fame forward Jari Kurri, whom Selanne idolized and briefly played with for the Ducks, said Selanne’s name is synonymous with the club.
“When you talk about the Anaheim Ducks you always have Teemu Selanne in mind, no question,” Kurri said.
“It’s a great honor to have a chance to be a part of history and his amazing career and to follow his career for many years after that. This team has been so good for Teemu all these years. It’s just amazing the numbers over the years at this kind of level hockey.”
Chris Pronger, Guy Hebert, Saku Koivu, George Parros and Scott Niedermayer also participated in the pregame ceremony and were welcomed with loud cheers. Commissioner Gary Bettman, of course, was booed.