It's true that in the NHL the words "Great 8" are completely and almost instantaneously associated with the Washington Capitals' forward Alexander Ovechkin now-a-days—and not necessarily wrongfully so, as the young left winger has accomplished a lot in his short NHL career.
But my article isn't disputing Ovechkin's career; it's crediting and respecting another player who also wears the No. 8. A player who has had just as illustrious a career, and possibly even greater, than the young Cap.
That player is Teemu Selanne. It's about giving him a title he has more than earned. That title is, "The Great 8."
Although Selanne and Ovechkin aren't the first great players to ever wear the No. 8 on their jerseys, with their high caliber of play and noteworthy careers, it's easy to see why someone would call either one of them "The Great 8."
While with the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne wore No. 13, though he initially asked to wear the No. 8. But at the time Norris Trophy winner Randy Carlyle, Teemu's future coach, had taken the number, and so Selanne would have to wait before wearing the Jersey number that is now associated with him, both in Anaheim and around the league.
During Selanne's rookie season, he set an NHL record with 76 goals, as well as the most points by a rookie with 132. He is Anaheim's leading point getter, and just five goals away from achieving the 600 career goal mark.
He's an 18-year veteran and winner of multiple awards, including the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the Rocket Richard Trophy, and the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Selanne is a Stanley Cup winner with the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006-2007 season, and has won both Bronze and Silver medals with Team Finland in the Olympics.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. Throughout his career, Teemu has show all of these qualities game in and game out.
Selanne gives the league, and most importantly the game of Hockey, the respect it deserves.
After battling a knee injury and undergoing surgery, Selanne has battled back, to show that he is still an elite player in today's game. Since the lockout ('04-'05) Selanne has scored 127 goals in four seasons and had 134 assists in regular season play alone.
Showing true perseverance, and a love of the game, he is still playing at an elite level at age 39.
While just a brief look Selanne's career achievements, it's very easy to tell that he is quite the skilled and respected player. And it is true that his nickname, "The Finnish Flash," is loved by many—both fans and players alike, myself included.
So why question it? Why not just go with the flow? Because it's more than just about a nickname, it's about respect and honoring a player who has accomplished more than enough to garner that respect.
It's about giving Selanne the recognition he has earned now, today. Not next year, not at his retirement ceremony, and not at his Hall of Fame induction. All those times will come, but why can't he be recognized now if he is still one of the best players in the league? Why should any top player not get the recognition they deserve?
In today's NHL, the names Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Chara are all synonymous with the league. But veteran players like Scott Niedermayer, Keith Tkachuk, and Paul Kariya all still play, but may not get the respect they rightfully deserve for what they have done with the sport.
The same can be said about Selanne. Now, everyone will remember these players for one reason or another. Niedermayer with his multiple Stanley Cup Wins and great skating.
Tkachuk with this contributions to Team USA, and Kariya with this outstanding speed. And just like these players, Teemu Selanne will be remembered for his individual contributions as well.
But the one other thing these players have in common today, is that outside of their respective teams and fan base, you hear very little of them. Mostly just referred to as the "veteran presence" on a team when they are mentioned elsewhere. This is not the respect these players deserve.
Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Terry Sawchuk...these players will be forever remembered in this league for both their play and their contributions to the sport. So why do veteran players like Selanne, who are among the best, and are still competing at a top level, have to wait to be counted among the best of the best?
Is there an unwritten law that states to truly be recognized for the player you are, you must be a young gun, or Hall of Famer?
Ovechkin is known and given his respect now, almost daily by sports media and the NHL as a whole. And while there most certainly was a time that that happened for Selanne, if he is still playing a high caliber level, why is he not known now?
Outside of Finland, Anaheim, and its rivals, the newer/younger fans of the NHL, probably won't know who Selanne is. They won't know who Tkachuk, Kariya, and Niedermayer are, either.
They will only know the Big Name guys like Ovechkin and Crosby. The league, the media, and every fan should recognize and respect all talent in the NHL, not just those that score the most goals, or lay down the biggest hits.
It is this reason why I believe that Teemu Selanne deserves not only to be remembered as the Finnish Flash, he also needs to be recognized for what he is now, and that is "The Great 8." He has worked for it, he deserves it, and, in my opinion and that of his fans around the world, it's undeniably true.
On March 21, 2010 Teemu Selanne became the 18th player in NHL History to score 600 Career Goals.