In this world of egotistical, adultery-plagued professional athletes there aren’t many who deserve the hero status thrust upon them by children.
This is a story about a hockey player who deserves the admiration, who deserves to be looked upon as an exemplary athlete and human being.
In 1993, Teemu Selanne burst onto the NHL with a ridiculous 76 goal season. So impressed was one wide-eyed 11-year-old hockey fan that he decided to write the sniper a congratulatory letter. Even at such an innocent age, Jordan Ortillan of Vancouver, B.C. was not naive enough to expect a reply, but with pure intentions, he sent off his letter of encouragement.
A few weeks later what should appear but an envelope with his name on it. You’d never guess what was inside.
An autographed rookie card from the Finnish Flash in a hand-addressed envelope.
Then and there, Selanne became Jordan’s second favourite player in the league (the first being the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure, of his beloved Canucks).
“I was trying to watch his little tendencies. Watching how much faster he was than everyone else at the time and really just admiring that.”
Remember those days? How many of us grew up doing the same thing with our favourite players – watching in rapture as #89 hopped on for the Canucks, or #99 for the Oilers. Heck, we still do it today when Ovechkin or Crosby jump the boards.
But this is about Jordan and his beloved Teemu Selanne. And the incredible effect a simple letter can have on a child.
“It just seemed like he did all of his talking on the ice.”
Imagine that: a role model who kept his mouth shut. When challenged, rather than fighting or going after someone through crude comments or dirty hits, or by making indignant commercials that ask “What should I do?” he simply punished opponents by scoring and winning games.
Canadian hockey fans are lucky because he’s not alone: Sidney Crosby, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Eric Staal, Steven Stamkos. The list goes on.
Selanne is the epitome. Over the years he has always carried himself with a certain professionalism.
His 76 goal mark of 1993 (shared that season with Alex Mogilny) has never been equaled since. Yet, he has maintained his consistency. This past season, Selanne was 8th in NHL points scoring, with 80 points. At the age of 40! The seven players above him on the list had an average age of 28.
“I like watching guys that performed, guys like Selanne and Bure. It’s kind of like the way Ovechkin is now,” said Jordan. “They’re just dynamic.”
Asked again to articulate what he found so special about Selanne, Jordan replies:
“Asked to sum him up in one word, the word class quickly comes to mind.”
With Selanne announcing today that he will return for one last year in the NHL, we know one 28 year old who is over the moon. And with the way Selanne has conducted himself throughout his professional career, Jordan is surely not alone.