Belarus 1, Finland 5
February 17, 2010
Finland routs Belarus as Selanne ties mark for most career Olympic points
Updated: February 17, 2010, 10:09 PM ET
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Teemu Selanne is never happier than when he's wearing a jersey with the word "Suomi" printed across the front.
The veteran forward has always been quick to answer the call from the Finnish national team and has almost always delivered in those situations. In fact, no other men's hockey player in Olympic history has more points than the Finnish Flash.
Selanne tied Russia's Valeri Kharlamov, Canada's Harry Watson and Czechoslovakia's Vlastimil Bubnik for first on the all-time list with an assist in Finland's 5-1 win over Belarus on Wednesday. That gave him 36 career points in Olympic competition -- a mark he'll almost certainly surpass before leaving Vancouver.
His Ducks teammate and longtime friend, Saku Koivu, added three assists to the Finland cause.
The 39-year-old is feeling somewhat reflective as he competes in his fifth and final Games.
"I've always had a lot of good times and a great experience with this national team," said Selanne. "I know that this is the last time for many players in this team to play for our country. It's very special. It has been so much fun, this has been a happy place for me."
Selanne was fortunate just to get a chance to play in another Olympics. He suffered a broken jaw after taking a puck in the face last month and is playing here with a shield that protects his chin.
Members of the Finnish media had reminded him about the all-time points record heading into this event so he was happy to tie it in the opening game.
"Obviously, it's a big honor," said Selanne. "I've been around for a long time, it's a nice compliment, great honor. I've been lucky over the years -- this is my fifth Olympics and I've always played with the great players so good things happen. Nothing more than that."
His linemates here are Jere Lehtinen and Koivu, both old friends who are likely nearing the end of their own international careers.
The friendship between Koivu and Selanne goes back a few decades. The two players are now teammates in Anaheim and have been anxiously anticipating the Olympic tournament.
"When I first got here to Vancouver, I was thinking about when I was 19 and starting in my first Olympics in Lillehammer," said Koivu.
"I remember how I felt and how so excited I was. Now it's a different excitement: you're excited, yes, but you're also proud; it's the fourth Olympics for me. I spoke to Teemu before we got here,'We're going to push everything aside and we're just going to enjoy this and take everything in and really have fun.'
"There's not too many games left in our careers and we need to enjoy them."
They were each part of the team that won silver four years ago in Turin, Italy.
Even though that tournament ultimately ended in disappointment, it was probably the most memorable moment of Selanne's lengthy and decorated international career.
"We had just an unbelievable hockey team there," he said. "We lost only one game and it was the last one, unfortunately. That team was just outstanding. We played seven games in 11 days and in the end we just ran out of gas a little bit."
He also speaks favorably of the 1998 squad that beat Canada to win bronze at the 1998 Games. Even the Games where Finland failed to get out of the quarterfinals -- it finished seventh in 1992, sixth in 2002 -- hold a special place for him.
"All Olympics are just unbelievable," said Selanne. "I think this is going to be even the greatest experience with Canadian fans. Vancouver is the best city in the world. This is a dream come true for a hockey player."
Finland may not be considered a strong favorite here, but he's not ruling out the possibility his team could write a storybook ending to his international career.
"We have a lot of good players," said Selanne. "Good chemistry and good roles and everybody is doing their job as good as they can. Great goaltending every night. Those things give us the chance to win every night, but obviously no one expects that we're going to challenge the big teams.
"You never know. We all come from the same league and drink the same beer."Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Wednesday, February 17th