The all time greatest Finnish ice hockey player Teemu Selänne, 44, ended his illustrious career in August. “The Finnish Flash” began his career in Finland in 1989. He then played 21 seasons in the NHL for the Winnipeg Jest, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Selänne is the highest scoring Finn it the NHL history. Now he has come home to live at the Selänne family home in Coto de Caza, California.
Teemu Selänne and wife Sirpa Selänne are sitting in the Ray Stark Theater of the University of Southern California, watching for the first time a full-length documentary “Sel8nne” , directed by JP Siili. The screening is part of the very first Euphoria Film Festival organized by the Finnish Consulate General headed by Consul General Juha Markkanen along with 12 other EU consulates. There are about a hundred people in the audience – most of them local Finns. After the screening there is a Q & A with Teemu Selänne and the audience. USC’s Programming Director Alex Ago served as a moderator.
Q: What made you decide to agree to this documentary?
TS: -At first I didn’t know how much I would want to open up my life. Then I thought it would be a nice memory when I’m old. I’m happy I did it. It’s a pretty honest story. I didn’t want the documentary crew to be around too much. I had a job to do too. the whole process took almost 2 years.
A bulk of Teemu’s interviews were done in the Summer at his house in Kirkkonummi, Finland.
TS: -Summer time was easier, I was able to be more flexible. We were landing in Helsinki (coming from California), and I told my family there was going to be a camera crew waiting. They are going to do the story of my life and you are going to be part of it. They looked at me like, seriously?
Selänne says the filming didn’t interrupt too much of the family’s life. The Selännes have four children – three teen-age boys Eemil, Eetu, Leevi and a six-year-old daughter Veera.
TS: -the cameras weren’t there all the time, just a couple of days here and there. Our life hasn’t been so private anyway, that’s why it was pretty easy to do.
The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. In one scene Teemu is seen pouring water from his Stanley Cup onto the rocks of a sauna stove.
TS: -There are some crazy stories about what people do with it. I heard some people let their dogs eat from it!
Q: How hands-on were you in the making of the movie?
TS: -I wanted to know what was going to be in the movie but did not want to involve myself too much. I didn’t want to open my garage door, but they wanted it. I’ve been very lucky to be able to collect those cars. Actually we drove my wife’s car here. (I only have one, Sirpa quips from the audience), It’s too fast for her anyway.
Selänne is said to have about 30 antique cars in his garage. In the 90’s Teemu also used to drive rally in Finland under a pseudonym because the team owners didn’t want him to jeopardize his life. He was involved in a serious accident in 1999 in which no one died but his friend Kalervo Kummola, the Vice President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, was seriously hurt.
TS: – I haven’t driven after the 1999 incident. I don’t have time for it from playing golf.
Q: What are you going to do now?
TS: -I played such a long time and lived a disciplined life with a schedule. For a little while I’m not going to do much. I like it that when I wake up in the morning I really don’t have to go anywhere. I can travel and be more part of the kids’ lives. After a while I want to find something that is going to be more challenging. I have a restaurant in Laguna Beach which is going to keep me busy. For a little while I’m just going to enjoy life.
Teemu then jokes that his wife Sirpa better not boss him around too much.
TS: -If the to do list gets too long she knows I can always go back playing hockey!
Q: How were you able to overcome a bad game?
TS: -Bouncing back from a bad night was the most difficult thing to do. It’s the same with golf. When you hit a bad shot, forget that, stay positive and focus on the next one. Hockey is all about confidence, staying positive and believing tomorrow is going to be another opportunity. That’s the only way to move forward.
Q: Would you have liked to have played in a town more into hockey?
TS: -I really enjoy the fact that people don’t recognize me all the time. I can live a normal life and enjoy privacy. Orange County and LA have been happy places for us. You can surf in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and go skiing at night if you want – it’s only a couple of hours away. That’s my kind of life!
Teemu says he would leave his work in the hockey rink.
TS: -My family couldn’t tell whether I played well or not. Some players don’t talk on game days. I can watch Baywatch before the game starts. That’s my approach.
Q: Would you like to do more charitable work?
TS: -I think so. It’s something I really enjoy doing. I am going to start a hockey academy in Finland and probably here too.
Q: There was some talk of you retiring after the Stanley Cup victory – was it the right choice to continue?
TS: -I am happy I didn’t retire in 2007. There were still many great years left. Obviously last year was pretty tough for the Ducks and Sochi Olympics were important to me. I am thankful the Finnish team gave me one more chance to play a big role. It was important to me.
Q: You were on a book tour in Finland, promoting your biography Teemu written by sports journalist Ari Mennander – are there plans to translate the book into English?
TS: -There are no plans right now to translate the book into English. Obviously I have to take some comments off (Ducks Coach), Bruce Boudreau – I’m just kidding. There are too many stories about Finnish games for American audience. It’s better I remain a mystery man here.
Q: There has been some talk about you going to Finland to play for the Jokerit – is there any truth to that?
TS: -Our oldest son is going to go to college next year. My middle one is going to play junior hockey in Wisconsin. So, going now to Finland knowing my family can’t come with me sounds selfish. Of course a part of me still wants to play but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Or something weird has to happen if I wake up one day and decide I’m going to play on that level again. I think it was the perfect time to go out. I’m ready for another chapter in my life.