Olympic Hockey 2014: Finnish Flash Teemu Selanne Cements His Legacy

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterFebruary 22, 2014

Teemu Selanne of Finland (8) gestures to the crowd after Finland defeated Team USA 5-0 in the men's bronze medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Nothing lasts forever, but perhaps the legend of Teemu Selanne will.

The 43-year-old Finnish superstar who is treated like a god as opposed to a mere mortal in his home country—and rightfully so—ended his international career a winner Saturday. He scored two goals as Finland put down Team USA like an old, sick dog in a 5-0 victory in the bronze-medal game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

It would have been easy for Selanne and his teammates to carry the disappointment of a semifinal loss Friday to rival Sweden into this game, but he would not let that happen.

"He spoke before the game," Olli Jokinen said to Puck Daddy of Yahoo Sports. "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.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

"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 (to Canada in the semifinals). Teemu wanted to make sure that the coaches, all the guys, knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win something."

It was a fitting end to Selanne's international career—assuming it is the end, because this is the guy who is in the midst of his seventh or eighth "final" NHL season with the Anaheim Ducks. 

This was Selanne's record-tying sixth appearance at the Olympics. He never won gold, but he won bronze three times (1998, 2010, 2014) and one silver (2006) while becoming the all-time leader in Olympic scoring.

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In 37 career games at the Olympics, Selanne has 24 goals and 43 points. 

At age 43, when players are either enjoying retirement or are shells of their former selves, Selanne had four goals and two assists in six games. In a tournament that features the best players on the planet, he is tied for fourth in scoring.

Selanne has used a combination of fortunate genetics, a love of the game and a nearly unrivaled level of competitiveness to get where he is today. In the bronze-medal game, it was evident in his play and that of his teammates.

It's very easy to roll over during a bronze-medal game at the Olympics. After all, no one arrives with the goal of winning bronze. When the air comes out of the balloon and gold is no longer attainable, it's understandably difficult to get fired up to play a game for the right to be considered third best.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 22: Teemu Selanne #8 of Finland looks on in the second period against the United States during the Men's Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game on Day 15 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, R
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For 20 minutes, it appeared as though both Team USA and Finland truly cared about this medal. But Selanne's will proved to be stronger, and his second-period goal clearly broke the will of the Americans.

Selanne used his speed to gain a stride on 24-year-old defenseman Ryan McDonagh, one of the game's most gifted skaters, and flipped a backhand shot past goaltender Jonathan Quick to give Finland a lead it would not relinquish.

Eleven seconds later, perhaps while Team USA was dreaming of a flight back to the comforts of their beds back in America, Jussi Jokinen made it 2-0.

Just like that, the Americans were broken.

Selanne's power-play goal in the third period—perhaps his final international goal—made it 4-0 and reaffirmed the notion that he is one of the best international players to ever lace up a pair of skates.

Since his first international competition as a 17-year-old in 1988, Selanne has amassed 53 goals and 101 points in 93 games that took place at either the Olympics, World Championships, World Junior Championships, Canada Cup or World Cup.

Selanne would have preferred gold, but he still went out a winner.

“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, according to Puck Daddy. "Winning this last game like this is a dream come true."

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