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    Athlete profile: Teemu Selanne

    Posted: Tue February 3, 1998 at 5:00 PM ET

    Athlete information
    NameTeemu Selanne
    PronouncedTAY-moo sel-LAH-nee
    BirthplaceHelsinki, Finland
    ResidenceHelsinki, Finland
    Height/Weight6'0", 200

    Athlete notes

    He is a Pied Piper in Finland -- but the congenial star is a deadly sniper on the ice...Selanne first hit the international scene at the 1991 World Championships, where he led the Lions in scoring and was third overall in the tournament with 11 points -- tallying six goals and five assists...Selanne was certainly ready for the big time and the NHL, but he waited until after the 1992 Olympics to turn professional so he could play for the Finnish national team in Albertville...now, Selanne is excited about a return to the big ice..."We don't have an NHL goaltender right now," he says. "But it's a bigger ice surface so maybe that won't be a big deal. On the big ice, you have more time. Skilled players can take advantage of anybody. Canada and the United States can't take a night off against anybody. The hockey level is getting closer and closer. When Finland plays its best game, and the United States is not having its best game, I think we have a chance to win"...Finland is mixing its NHL players with about nine European based players...Selanne, though, will be the Lions indomitable leader...during his NHL rookie year in 1992-93 with the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne took the league by surprise, amassing 76 goals...he shattered Mike Bossy's previous rookie mark of 56 goals and left hockey players and fans in a state of bewilderment ..."I'm sure when I scored 30 goals, opponents said, ‘Who is Selanne?' when I scored 50, it was , ‘What's going on?' and then 60. I was just rolling. After games I'd come in our dressing room and laugh and say, ‘I can't believe I scored a goal on that shot'"...for his efforts, Selanne won the 1993 Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year...still, not everyone had heard of Selanne...when he was awarded Winnipeg's Outstanding Achievement award in March '93 by Mayor Susan Thompson, Selanne's last name was in fact misspelled on the trophy...it was no big deal for the easy-going Finn, however...Selanne has always loved the public attention and is very popular with fans and the media..."Teemu always says that without fans there would be no game of hockey," says his wife, Sirpa (SEER-pah). "So he always signs [autographs]"...says one official of the Mighty Ducks, Selanne's current team, "Every game, no matter where we go, there is someone in the stands wearing a Winnipeg Jets Teemu Selanne jersey"...on the ice, Selanne relies on creative passes and unpredictable shots to throw off opponent's goaltenders, but he has the brute strength and natural speed to beat defenders physically, as well...such a lethal combination has consistently made him one of the league's top scorers and the reason why the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim traded two talented players drafted in the first round to land him in February 1996...Selanne was bitter about the trade, not because of the trade itself, but because just 10 days earlier he had been promised by Winnipeg co-owner Richard Burke that he was staying put...combined with the fact that Sirpa was expecting the family's first child, son Eemil, Selanne received a rude wake-up call to the realities of the NHL..."Coming from Finland, we don't have trades and you really want to do something good for the fans and the organization. It's not just a job, it's a relationship between the organization and the players," says Selanne. "Then when I got traded I really realized that it's just a business. They don't care what I've done for the team or for the city. I had heard it before but I couldn't believe it. I'm a lot smarter now"...things quickly blew over after Winnipeg management paid for Selanne to fly home, and after the Finnish Flash scored a hat trick just two days after Eemil was born...Selanne also stays true to his Finnish roots... he will be quick to tell you what he misses from his native Finland -- Finnish licorices, Finnish black bread and a hearty reindeer steak...in fact, the 27 year old calls Finland almost daily to talk with friends and family...after all, that's where it all began for the superstar...in the year before leaving Finland, Selanne attended business college, played around on his guitar, practiced magic tricks, was a member of the Finnish junior national soccer team, and made it to squad leader during his mandatory year in the armed forces...most interesting perhaps, Selanne taught kindergarten for three years during his stint with Helsinki's Jokerit hockey team..."After two years in business school and a tour with the Finnish Army, I decided I didn't want to [go into] business. In Finland, hockey is not a professional sport so you have to do something else for a job. It came to my mind right away that I wanted to do something with children and I worked three years in the kindergarten. It was a great time -- an unbelievable time"... this was the early impetus for Selanne to become involved in charity work...he helped start the Godfathers Foundation which enlists celebrities to help raise money for ailing children...also, every time Selanne scores a hat trick, the hats thrown to the ice are collected and sent to orphanages...it was also during his time in Helsinki that Selanne broke his leg and missed most of the 1989-90 season...but the frustration he felt then prepared him for the 1994 season when he severed his Achilles tendon Jan. 26 and had to sit out he remainder of the year...Selanne has one other passion outside of hockey and children -- car racing...during the off-season Selanne competes in road rallies under the name Teddy Flash, a spin-off of his nickname, the Finnish Flash...his good friend is world driving champion Jacques Villeneuve...one of Selanne's first vehicles was a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible which he refurbished...it was the same model that President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assasinated in Dallas...now Selanne owns a speedboat, four JetSkis, four go-karts and five classic cars -- each of them a convertible...he also took an old Mercedes bus and converted it into a self-described "party bus"...the bus was put to good use during Selanne's bachelor party in the summer of 1996...driving around the city, the hockey star was blindfolded, given a small tattoo of a lightning bolt over a Finnish flag and dropped off in the middle of a soccer game at a stadium filled with 10,000 cheering fans..."Within 10 seconds someone dropped the ball and yelled, ‘Play!'" Selanne says. "So I played, I even shot once and hit the post. It was great"...and if his NHL play is any indication, he was surely a positive -- albeit surprised -- addition to the team...but more importantly, Selanne played with the enthusiastic, unselfish and good-natured attitude with which he approaches life...Teemu and wife Sirpa welcomed a second child, Eetu, this fall...Teemu speaks English...

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