Teemu Selanne’s sixth Olympic Games will be his last for Finland.
The “Finnish Flash” will end his NHL and international career at the end of the season, so he’s doing his best to savor every moment of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“I think anything you do for the last time, it’s going to be emotional because a lot of times you don’t know it’s your last and there’s still a lot of things you wonder about such as what could happen after,” Selanne told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen on Tuesday. “But when you know it’s your last you try to take everything in. You see things differently. It’s just been an unbelievable journey in my national career and ending it here, it’s a perfect way.”
Selanne has enjoyed a Hall of Fame NHL career, highlighted by a Stanley Cup triumph with the Anaheim Ducks in 2006-07. He also had a decorated career with Finland, which includes an all-time Olympic record of 37 points. But there’s still one piece of hardware the veteran winger hasn’t won — an Olympic gold medal.
The Fins lost the gold medal game to arch-rival Sweden at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, and were kept out of the final in 2010 when the United States defeated them 6-1 in the semifinal. Finland left the Vancouver Games with a bronze medal after scoring three unanswered third-period goals to stun Slovakia.
Finland is once against among the medal contenders, but the road to the podium will be a difficult one after veteran forwards Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula couldn’t make the trip to Sochi because of injuries.
For the Finnish squad to stun the world and win gold over the likes of Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States, Selanne needs to play at a higher level than he has in Anaheim this season (20 points in 47 games). Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask, who’s making his Olympic debut, must have an MVP-caliber performance for Finland to overcome its lack of elite offensive skill.
With so many of the young players on Finland’s Olympic roster having looked up to Selanne during their childhood, helping the Finnish legend capture the first gold medal of his career in his final Winter Games should be a powerful motivator.
Standing on the podium with their idol as the Finnish national anthem roars would be a dream come true.
Photo via Twitter.com/PuckStopUK