A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about a present I received from my mom for my birthday: my very first NHL jersey.
I explained the thinking behind my decision to put a player’s name on the back. It wasn’t an easy decision, as I am a fan of the Ducks, no matter who is on the roster. But in the end, I decided to go with the quintessential Duck himself, Teemu Selanne.
And I closed my post with these words:
“Thanks, mom, for one of my favorite birthday gifts ever. Now all I need is for him to sign it.”
Well, that night came this past week. And it was a “Finntastic” night to remember.
Wednesday night at Honda Center was all about Teemu and the Finns. The contest against the Detroit Red Wings started with an on-ice ceremony prior to puck drop honoring Ducks forward, Saku Koivu The Finland native achieved the milestone of playing in his 1000th NHL game two nights earlier in Colorado when the Ducks faced off against the Avalanche. As a cancer survivor, this was definitely a milestone worth celebrating for Koivu.
Later in the first period, the Ducks recognized The Finnish Flash himself. In that same game in Colorado Monday night, Selanne scored a power play goal, giving him 1,399 career points, passing fellow Finn and childhood hero, Jari Kurri, for the 19th spot on the NHL all-time scoring list. And on the JumboTron, there was Jari Kurri, a guest in Teemu’s suite that night.
After a scoreless first period, Teemu got the goal-scoring party started with his 660th career goal and 1,400th career point. The Ducks would score three goals in the second period and add one more in the third for a 4-0 win over the Wings, the first time ever that Anaheim has shut out Detroit on home ice.
My husband, John, and I were at this game as guests of Panda Licorice, the all-natural licorice snack company. The Finland-based company was also kind enough to allow me to host a blog giveaway to have a Ducks fan and their guest join us in the suite for the game and a postgame meet-and-greet with Teemu. Teemu is a big fan of the flavored licorice snacks and was set to come and meet with all of us after the game.
The big winner of our little contest here on the blog was Gennie Lindgren. Her husband Magnus (who is a Swede!) joined us for the exciting night. It was such a pleasure to meet Gennie. A true fan of Teemu and the great sport of hockey, she was over the moon about winning this opportunity to meet her hockey hero. No joke, she smiled for the entire night. Her gratefulness made the evening so enjoyable for me.
After the game, as we waited for Teemu, we were all treated to a surprise. Five-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer, Jari Kurri, came by the suite to say hello to the guests. Holy Finn! It was so great to meet him. His other media commitments didn’t allow him to stay for long, but I got a quick photo with one of the members of hockey royalty.
And then the big moment. The Great 8 came through the door. We cheered him for the big win. We congratulated him on his 1,400th point. We begged him to stay “one more year”. Teemu posed for several photos and signed countless autographs. All the while, he was his gracious, unassuming self. He probably still wonders, after all these years, what all the fuss is about. But that’s part of what makes him so great.
My goal was to have him sign my jersey and have John snap a photo. I’ve met Teemu before. I’ve even interviewed him. But this moment was different for me. It was a total fan moment, complete with the nervous jitters and a loss for words. I did thank him, for signing my jersey and for all he’s done. I think most fans would agree, words seem to fall short and could never properly thank Teemu enough for his commitment to Ducks hockey and the Orange County community.
So thank you, Panda Licorice, for helping fulfill a special moment for this hockey fan. It’s a night I will never forget.