Selanne eyes Kurri

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:53 PM ET

The celebration is as memorable as the accomplishment.

Tossing his right glove high in the air, a rookie Teemu Selanne turns his stick around, grips it like a machine gun and pretends to blast the mitt out of the sky.

Seventeen years after the Jets freshman sensation breaks Mike Bossy’s rookie record by scoring a hat-trick for goals 52, 53 and 54 at the Winnipeg Arena back on March 2, 1993, Selanne celebrated his 600th goal at the Honda Center in Anaheim Sunday night in a victory over the Avalanche, this one with a simple raise of his arms and a group hug with his Ducks teammates.

“It’s more conservative,” Selanne said. “My first year, I was just so excited. Now when I look back and I see when I broke Bossy’s record and I threw the glove in the air and I shot it down, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, what was I doing?’ I was just so pumped and so happy.

“You get older and smarter and wiser. It’s more low-key.”

But beating a goalie will never become old hat for Selanne.

“I still get really excited about it,” he said with a grin before Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.

“For me, scoring goals is hard to describe the feeling, but it’s still so much fun.”

Just the third European and 18th NHLer to pot 600 goals in the league, Selanne doesn’t look like a man on the brink of 40 and potential retirement — especially when you watch him on the ice, where he’s still captivated by the game he started playing as a toddler in Finland when Jari Kurri’s poster was stuck on his wall.

Two goals away from passing Kurri as the most potent sniper his country has ever exported to North America, Selanne still sits in his stall Tuesday afternoon amazed he’s made it this far, survived in the league this long, and had so much success along the way.

“When I was a kid and I was shooting pucks on the outdoor rinks, I was Jari Kurri,” said Selanne, who made believe just like every Canadian kid who pretended to be Wayne Gretzky while practising their skills. “I never expected to score as many goals that he did.

“If somebody told me years ago that I’m gonna have more goals than Jari, I would probably recommend they go to the doctor.”

Even when he finished his rookie year with an unbelievable 76 goals to set a seemingly unbreakable benchmark — eat your heart out, Bossy — Selanne couldn’t picture No. 600.

“I wasn’t expecting to play this long,”

He’s not sure how much longer he’ll continue.

Turning 40 in July, Selanne continues to escape his age on the ice.

Despite suiting up 45 games heading into the game against the Flames, he managed 21 goals and 36 assists between unfortunate injuries to his hand, jaw and shoulder that have nothing to do with his body breaking down.

“Everytime when I’ve been healthy, I felt I can really skate and play well and enjoy this game,” he said. “The injures — especially at this age — it’s hard. Coming back from the injuries, it’s really hard, too.

“This year has been the toughest when it comes to injuries.

“When you get older, you start thinking about it more. Is it worth it anymore?”

The smile he sports every time he scores would tell you yes.

He’ll take time to evaluate things this summer before making a decision on whether or not to retire.

“How much fun this is, how much you have left, and how much you want to sacrifice yourself,” Selanne said. “I would like to retire when you’re still healthy and you’re still at the top of your game and enjoy the game.

“It’s got to end somewhere.”

When that day comes, the game will lose one if its greatest.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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