Selanne's passion burning brightly

Teemu Selanne

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With the hockey world abuzz in the aftermath of John Gibson's sparkling NHL playoff debut, Teemu Selanne chuckled Sunday at the thought of his first encounter with the Anaheim Ducks phenom goalie.

"When he was first here, we were having lunch or something, and he said, 'I think my mom is the same age as you,'" Selanne recalled.

To which Selanne's response to Gibson was not suitable for a family audience.

Of course, when you consider that Gibson was born only after Selanne had completed his first NHL season, well, it only stands to reason that Gibson's mother would share a similar birth certificate to the Finnish Flash.

Just don't tell Selanne that. In his heart and mind, he's still the same 22-year-old who took the NHL by storm in 1992.

"But you know what? I think it's awesome," said Selanne, still chuckling at the Gibson story. "That's why I'm so proud I've been able to play for so many years. I still enjoy it, I'm still hanging around with the young guys who could be my son. I don't feel older than these guys. I can guarantee you, I still enjoy this more than most of my teammates."

One of Selanne's longtime teammates still marvels at his old pal's passion for the game.

"It's unbelievable," retired star Paul Kariya told Sunday. "It's one of the great stories in all of sports. To play hockey at this level and the way he's doing it at this age, I mean MVP at the Olympics at 43 is just unbelievable. One of the great sports stories of all time."

Kariya and Selanne were the Ryan Getzlaf- Corey Perry of the mid- to late 1990s in these parts, putting the Ducks on the NHL map by delivering an exciting 1-2 punch. From the day Selanne arrived in Anaheim following his trade by the Winnipeg Jets during the 1995-96 season, Kariya has never been around a player who enjoyed life and hockey so much.

"His passion ... for life in general ... I don't know anyone that loves being alive and loves every moment of the day like Teemu does," said Kariya, 39. "He loves being around the guys and going out for dinner on the road and all the little things, the joking around. He loves every part of the game. I think that's a big reason why he's played for so long. It's incredible what kind of passion and love for the game he has held onto for this long."

Kariya attended Selanne's last regular-season game last month.

"I think he's actually going to play longer. I don't know why he's talking about this retirement stuff," Kariya said with a laugh.

"I just think they have to play him more," Kariya added with a chuckle. "It is funny. When we talked this year, there were times when he just wants to be on the ice more and more power-play time. That's what I'm talking about with the passion and the drive. He still has that determination to be the best and to help the team win hockey games. He feels like he can do more and I believe him."

Selanne's farewell season has not always been a dream. He's been scratched at times, including Game 4 against the Dallas Stars in the previous round.

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