There are only a few months left in Teemu Selanne’s professional hockey career. We do not know if it will end with a second Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, but Selanne personally helped ensure that his Olympic career ended with a fourth medal.
Coming off a 2-1 loss to Sweden in the semifinal game on Friday, the 43-year old Selanne scored twice in Finland’s 5-0 rout of the U.S. to win bronze in Sochi.
Since the NHL began sending its playing to the Olympics in 1998, Finland is the only country to win four medals. The trophy case at the home of the “Finnish Flash” features a silver medal, and now three bronze.
“To bounce back from that huge disappointment from last night, I’m so proud of my guys," Selanne said. "We knew we could play our best game of the tournament tonight and we did."
Selanne, along with Finnish veterans Kimmo Timonen, Olli Jokinen and Sami Salo, helped inspire a generation of hockey players in the country. Some of those players, like Mikael Granlund, Sami Vatanen and Olli Maatta, made big impacts in this tournament.
“He was such a big idol of mine and he still is. To be able to play on the same line as him is like a dream,” said Granlund.
Selanne led Finland with four goals and finishes a point behind Granlund for the team scoring lead. His six points in the tournament make him the all-time scoring leader in the modern Olympic era with 24 goals and 43 points. Adding to his personal accolades, only seven players have ever won four Olympic medals, according to the IIHF. Selanne and Timonen are now a part of that exclusive group.
Once Finland went up 2-0 early in the second period, the smile began to grow on Selanne's face. He knew it was the end. He knew he’d be winning a fourth Olympic medal. He knew, while he never got his gold medal, he still accomplished something few others have.
After the final buzzer, his Finnish teammates celebrated for him. They celebrated with him. Olli Jokinen gave him the game puck, an answer to the call Selanne gave to his teammates in the locker room earlier.
"He spoke before the game," said Jokinen. "He was saying, for the younger guys this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win the medal because there are no guarantees who is going to be here in four years and you don’t want to throw these chances away. There is not many hockey players who are going to be able to say they have an Olympic medal in their office."
"It was a message for all of us that we know how tough it is to lose the game yesterday and we knew how tough for the U.S. to lose that game. Teemu wanted to make sure that the coaches, all the guys, knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win something."
The Finns played the bronze medal game with the passion and energy you'd expect from a team playing with pride.
Their opponents couldn't come close to matching what they were up against. It was Finland playing for bronze, and playing for Selanne.
It's tough to match that kind of inspiration. It's impossible not to get up for Teemu Selanne.
"If there’s one guy on the planet that I feel happy for, (despite) losing that game, I think it’s him,’’ U.S. defenseman Cam Fowler said.
When it was over, Selanne was beaming. “Twenty six years ago I played my first national team game and I’ve been carrying this jersey with a lot of pride and love," he said.
"Winning this last game like this is a dream come true."
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