It was 20 winters ago that Teemu Selanne arrived in the NHL in grand style. The Finish Flash scored 76 goals in 1992-93 – a rookie record – easily capturing the Calder Trophy as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.
In retrospect, Selanne set the bar ridiculously high in his freshman campaign. The 76 markers are 24 more than his second-best season. This, however, is due more to the NHL’s dead puck era than it is Selanne’s personal shortcomings. He has, after all, led the league in goals three times. He owns three 50-goal seasons and three 100-point seasons. In total, he has 666 career goals and 1,416 points.
Amazingly, Selanne will turn 43 in July and he still performs with the zeal of a 20-year-old. He has 10 points in nine games for the 7-1-1 Ducks. At this stage of his career, Selanne is year to year. It’s likely he won’t make a decision about his future until summer. The consummate pro, Selanne always waits to see how his body feels, not wanting to play at a level less than his best.
The only player who has more points for the Ducks is Saku Koivu, who’ll turn 39 in November. Yes it’s early, but the two leading scorers on one of the top teams in the NHL have a combined age of 80. They’re outscoring young whippersnappers Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
But the Ducks are hardly the only team being led by a greybeard. Their Pacific Division rivals, the Dallas Stars, are being propelled by Jaromir Jagr, who’ll turn 41 on Feb. 15. Jagr scored the OT winner against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, completely undressing the much younger Ryan Whitney in the process. Jagr’s 8 points in 10 games are tops on the Stars.
These old guys clearly still have some hockey left in them. We’re always amazed when a hockey player enjoys success in his forties, but it has been done before, and chances are it will become more common as players continue to pay strict attention to their conditioning and nutrition.
Gordie Howe played his final NHL game at the age of 52 alongside his sons Mark and Marty. He scored a respectable 15 goals in his final season; Wayne Gretzky only had nine in his last year at the age of 38.
Chris Chelios, of course, played into his late forties before he had to be pried away from the game he loved. Chelios’ longevity was impressive considering he played an abrasive style. He received and dolled out a great deal of punishment throughout his career.
Mark Messier scored 18 goals at the age of 43 and likely would have played longer if the lockout of 2003-04 didn’t interrupt his career. Igor Larionov and Mark Recchi also played to the age of 43. The only other position players 43 or older in NHL history are Doug Harvey, Tim Horton and Claude Lemieux.
In addition to Jagr and Selanne, Ray Whitney (Jagr’s teammates) and Daniel Alfredsson are members of the NHL’s 40-something club this season.