No one expected Selanne to score 76 goals every year. But some Jets officials grumbled that he had lost a bit of his magic after his debut season. His production, in fact, dropped off, and he averaged about a goal every two games. A year ago the trade rumors started. Sirpa was due to deliver their first child (a boy, Eemil) in mid-February. Jets co-owner Richard Burke called Selanne and assured him that he wasn't getting shipped out. Selanne believed him.
"Ten days later I was traded to the Ducks," Selanne says. "Every organization I play in, I always try to help, to do what they want. After the trade I thought, Management doesn't care. They use players. I told myself, From now on I'm going to change my style."
So did he? "Nahhh," Selanne chuckles. "This is me."
In Selanne and Kariya, the Ducks think they have a younger version of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, a one-two punch to rival Colorado's dynamic Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Through Sunday, Selanne had 25 goals and 31 assists to rank fifth in the NHL in scoring. Last Saturday he played in his fourth All-Star Game.
Despite a 1-10-2 start while Kariya was sidelined because of an abdominal strain, Anaheim is in the hunt for the playoffs. In Kariya's second game back Selanne notched his first hat trick of the season in the Ducks' 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks, snapping an eight-game losing streak. Afterward a joyous Selanne told reporters, "It's time to smile again."
The muckers and grinders still outnumber the superstars on the Ducks' roster, but NHL teams should recognize Selanne's smile for what it really is: a sniper's grin. The man lights the goal lamp as deftly as he lights up a room.