Column: Former Mighty Ducks Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya will carry bond into Hall of Fame

Former Ducks teammates Paul Kariya, left, and Teemu Selanne were both elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
(Bruce Bennett Studios / Getty Images)
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Three years into retirement following a glorious NHL career, Teemu Selanne is still as fast as ever. He’s also still linked to friend and former Mighty Ducks linemate Paul Kariya, an enduring bond they will carry into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Selanne, nicknamed the Finnish Flash for his ability to score and make plays at breathtaking speed, was the first to tell Kariya they both had been elected to the Hall, Selanne in his first year of eligibility and Kariya seven years after repeated concussions forced him to retire. Selanne had to relay the news in a message Monday morning because Kariya was out surfing the waters of south Orange County, as he does several times a week. “I didn’t get eaten by any sharks,” Kariya said, “so it was a positive day.”

Selanne’s news made the day better than Kariya could have imagined. “I can’t say this is a dream come true,” Kariya said, “because never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this is possible. It’s an incredible honor.”


Skillful Selanne, who ranks 11th on the NHL’s career goal list with 684 and 15th in points with 1,457 — and is the all-time leading scorer in Olympic play — and the equally dynamic Kariya, who scored 402 goals and 989 points in 989 games, lead a seven-person class that will be inducted on Nov. 13 in Toronto. It’s fitting for them to share the spotlight there, as they so spectacularly shared it with the Ducks. “If I didn’t get the opportunity to play with him I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame,” Kariya said during a conference call. “So I’m very thankful…. He made me a better person and I appreciate everything he did for me off the ice as well as on the ice.”

Selanne returned the compliment. “I’m so proud about Paul’s career,” he said from his home in Finland. “I had the pleasure to play with him for so many years. I played my best years as a hockey player with Paul and the chemistry what we had was just magical every night. I owe so much to him as a player and human being.”

Two other NHL players were chosen by the Hall’s selection committee. Forward Dave Andreychuk, who tallied a league-record 274 power-play goals among his 640 goals and played 1,639 games, was in his ninth year of eligibility when he got the call from Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald. Andreychuk, who played hockey so he wouldn’t have to follow his parents to work in the steel mills, described himself as “just overwhelmed” by the honor.

“It didn’t matter to me whether it was one year or 10 years,” said Andreychuk, the vice president of corporate and community affairs for the Tampa Bay Lightning. “You think about this day, that it’s going to happen, and you think you’re prepared for it and you’re really not.”

Also selected was durable forward Mark Recchi, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991, Carolina in 2006 and Boston in 2011. He played 1,652 games and recorded 1,533 points, 12th-most in NHL history. Other than still-active Jaromir Jagr, Recchi was the highest-scoring player not in the Hall.

“It was just an honor to play 22 years,” said Recchi, now Pittsburgh’s director of player development. “To stay healthy through that was never easy. I loved playing the game.”


Danielle Goyette, the first French-Canadian woman voted into the Hall, often faced skeptics who asked her why a woman wanted to play a man’s game. She persevered, winning seven world championships and three Olympic medals. “When you love something that much, it doesn’t matter what people say,” she said. “You just do what you love.”

Mighty Ducks forward Paul Kariya, left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a playoff goal against the Minnesota Wild on May 14, 2003.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Elected in the builders’ category were Jeremy Jacobs, who owns the Boston Bruins and chairs the NHL’s board of governors, and Clare Drake, a retired Canadian college coach who has mentored many NHL coaches.

Kariya, the first star of the then-Mighty Ducks and twice a 100-point scorer, and Selanne, universally admired for his skill and genuine connection with fans, will be the first Hall of Famers who played the majority of their careers for the Ducks. Sergei Fedorov, Jari Kurri, Scott Niedermayer, Adam Oates and Chris Pronger wore one Ducks logo or another but none was as strongly identified with the franchise as Kariya and Selanne.

Selanne began his NHL career in Winnipeg, obliterating rookie records with a 76-goal, 132-point performance in 1992-93. He was a huge fan favorite but small-market economics made it difficult for the Jets to survive there; Kariya had played alongside Selanne in an All-Star game and came back to Anaheim with rave reports about the Finnish right wing’s speed and complementary game. The Ducks acquired Selanne on Feb. 6, 1996, in what was considered a risky move because they gave up youngsters Chad Kilger and Oleg Tverdovsky. Any questions about the deal vanished quickly.

“On the ice, I just felt like I always knew where he was without looking and I think he would say the same about me, just knowing what we wanted to do,” said Kariya, who scored 50 goals on left wing that season. “And we both enjoyed playing the game at a high pace and using our speed and creativity to create offensive chances. I think the fact that we were both unselfish players, we didn’t care who got the credit or scored, gave us even more opportunities.”


It didn’t matter that Selanne was outgoing and Kariya was reserved. “We have totally opposite personalities but that’s a great thing and we had a great time, a lot of great years,” Selanne said.

The Ducks traded Selanne to San Jose in 2001 and let Kariya go as a free agent in the summer of 2003 rather than give him a $10-million qualifying offer on a projected $40-million payroll. That was shortly after their seven-game Stanley Cup Final loss to New Jersey, during which Kariya was rocked by a thunderous hit from Scott Stevens in Game 6 and lay motionless on the ice for several minutes. Remarkably, Kariya came back to score a goal but that blow — and the Gary Suter hit that kept Kariya out of the 1998 Winter Olympics — were only a few of the substantial head shots he suffered during his career.

Selanne and Kariya signed with Colorado in 2003 with the idea of teaming up to win the Cup but their plan went astray, partly because Selanne was hobbled by knee problems. The cancellation of the 2004-05 season gave Selanne time to recover from knee surgery and he rejoined the Ducks in 2005. He produced 40 goals in his return and 48 in 2006-07 as the powerful Ducks won the Cup. “It’s the biggest dream of my life,” he told The Times that day.

Kariya scored 55 goals in two seasons with Nashville but never got his championship. He missed most of the 2008-09 season and all of the 2010-11 season before taking a doctor’s advice to retire, and he was a critic of the prevalence of blows to the head. He said Monday he needed a year away from hockey to shake the headaches that plagued him.

Ducks forward Teemu Selanne acknowledges the cheers of the fans after the team's 2013-14 regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche at Honda Center in April.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

“To me, these targeted headshots that are still in the game, they don’t have any place in hockey. I’d like to see them eliminated,” he said. “In my experience, it’s the ones that guys are targeting your head and they’re doing it when you have no way of protecting yourself, those are ones that are really damaging. I think it’s going in the right direction. I’d still like to see more done in terms of how long the suspensions are and the severity of the suspensions.”


Ever private, Kariya has kept his distance from the game he loved playing. Selanne, who operates a steak house in Laguna Beach, remains involved with the team and declared it “one of my missions” to draw Kariya back into the fold. “I think that his passion and commitment and everything that he knows about hockey, he can offer so much, still, and help hockey in southern California,” Selanne said.

Selanne’s No. 8 is the only jersey the Ducks have retired, though there’s sentiment to retire Kariya’s No. 9. Kariya politely disagreed. “Teemu is very deserving of that. To me, the players that won a Stanley Cup there should be up in the rafters,” Kariya said, listing Selanne, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as more deserving.

Selanne was quick as ever to disagree. “Everything what he has done in hockey and Orange County and for the Ducks, his number deserves to be up there,” Selanne said. “I can’t wait when that day comes.”

Until that day, they’ll have their Hall of Fame induction to share and cherish.