Teemu all about passion

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Teemu Selanne says he feels born-again -- and he's not talking about religion.

The Anaheim Ducks speedster is not only playing his best hockey in years, he's playing the best hockey of any 36-year-old in NHL history, at least where goal-scoring is concerned.

Last Sunday, Selanne became the first player 35 or older to record back-to-back 40-goal seasons when he scored No's 40 and 41 in a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Given from where he's come the last three years, it may just be the most satisfying of all seven of his 40-goal seasons.

"I'm very happy and proud I can do those things at a little older age," Selanne said during an NHL conference call yesterday. "But when you find the passion... you feel like you're 20. It doesn't matter how old you are."

Three years ago you wondered if the Finnish Flash would ever find the passion again.

Playing on a bad knee -- think of Secretariat on three legs -- the former Winnipeg Jet posted a measly 16 goals for the Colorado Avalanche, the lowest output of his career.

Then came the lockout, and Selanne's decision to have surgery. Deep down, he knew it might be over.

"I decided, if this knee is not going to be as good as I want, I can't play," Selanne said. "There's no way I'm going to play at that level... because it's a waste of time. If you can't have the enjoyment you had as a little kid, it's not worth it."

But he also decided he'd give it his best shot. And after a long rehab, he re-discovered what he feared had been lost forever.

"A couple years, tough years, where you can't use your speed, you're hurt ... you just lose so much passion and fun of the game," he said. "When I realized I got all those things back, I'm just so happy. Obviously the lockout really saved my career. It was just awesome."

GOOD THING

Turns out the injury might have been a good thing, too. While some players his age are starting to feel the grind, Selanne's having a blast.

"I was reborn, and I really enjoyed that time when I could play healthy and pain-free," he said. "Those are things you don't appreciate so much when you don't have to face those problems."

The results have been startling: 40 goals and 90 points a year ago, 41 and 81 in the current season. Just as important, he's played 150 of 152 Ducks games, including all 70 this season.

And when it's time to crank it up a notch, Selanne's done that, too, with six goals in both last year's Stanley Cup playoffs and the Winter Olympics in Turin, where he led Finland to a silver medal.

Still eluding him, of course, is the Stanley Cup. Last year, when the Ducks reached the conference final, was the closest he's come.

After a mid-season slide, which followed an incredible first half, the Ducks appear to be back on track entering the home stretch.

"I always believe everybody has to go through some tough times," Selanne said.

"And it really helped this team. It's so important you stick together and find a way to turn the team around. This is the final confidence boost for our team before the playoffs. This stretch is going to be really important."

The fact the Ducks hardly tinkered with their roster at the trade deadline doesn't bother Selanne at all.

In fact, he says that might make them stronger.

"We started last year -- everybody accepted their roles and we did the job together. We still have all those guys here. It's very important that you have that chemistry, that good family feeling on the team."

Of course, every family needs an old man leading the way.


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