ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Anaheim Ducks retired Teemu Selanne's jersey in the Honda Center rafters Sunday, honoring the beloved forward who became their franchise scoring leader during his 21-season NHL career.
Eight months after Selanne ended a record-setting career spent mostly in Orange County, the Ducks raised his No. 8 in an emotional pregame ceremony for the franchise's most popular player and the 11th-leading goal-scorer in NHL history.
"I feel very lucky in so many different ways," Selanne told the sellout crowd while blinking back tears. "You guys have made this a happy place for us. It's overwhelming. You guys have treated me so well. Thanks for making this life so special."
Commissioner Gary Bettman, Ducks owner Henry Samueli and Selanne's family joined two decades of teammates in honoring the Finnish Flash before the Ducks faced the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne's first NHL club. After the ceremony, the two teams warmed up in replicas of every jersey worn by Selanne with the two clubs -- everything from the Ducks' current look to the franchises' mid-1990s sweaters.
"This whole thing has been unbelievable," Selanne said, employing his favorite adjective over the years. "I'm so lucky and thankful to have experienced all this."
After speaking to the crowd, Selanne was joined by his family under a spotlight while a black banner with his No. 8 slowly rose.
Selanne won the Calder Trophy in 1993 and the Stanley Cup in 2007 while delighting hockey fans for a quarter-century with his electrifying offensive abilities and magnetic personality.
Samueli hailed Selanne as "the true face of the franchise" and an exemplary leader who "touched thousands of lives" with charity work.
"We salute you, we thank you, we love you," Samueli added. "You are permanently ingrained in the soul of the Anaheim Ducks franchise."
Selanne's jersey is the first retired by the Ducks, who came into existence in 1993 -- a few months after Selanne set an NHL record with 76 goals in his rookie season in Winnipeg.
Bettman called the goals mark "a record that no doubt will never be broken," and he credited Selanne with a large role in hockey's rise to prominence in Southern California -- even while fans greeted the commissioner with his usual round of boos.
"I would get booed to be with Teemu any time," Bettman said. "Unless I'm mistaken, it sounds like you're going 'Tee-muuuuuu.'"
The then-Mighty Ducks acquired Selanne in February 1996, and he returned to the franchise for good in 2005 after brief stints in San Jose and Colorado. Selanne spent parts of 15 seasons in Orange County, where he still lives year-round with his wife and four children.
After flirting with retirement for seven consecutive summers, Selanne finally did for good last year after racking up 684 goals and 773 assists in 1,451 games. He is the 15th-leading scorer in NHL history with 1,457 points and the Ducks' career leader in most major categories, including goals (457), assists (531) and games played (966).
Selanne also is a six-time Olympian and the leading scorer in Olympic hockey history, captaining Finland to bronze medals in Sochi.
Selanne's family was joined on the stage by Jari Kurri, his childhood hero, and former Ducks teammates, including Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Saku Koivu, Steve Rucchin, Guy Hebert, Todd Marchant and George Parros. Selanne also insisted on leaving an empty chair on stage for the late Don Baizley, his former agent.
His friends took a few jabs: Giguere claimed Selanne is known for having "a muffin for a shot."
"How did you fool so many goalies?" Giguere asked with a smile.
Selanne co-owns a Laguna Beach restaurant and plays plenty of golf and tennis in his retirement, but he expects to get back into hockey in some capacity soon, either with the Ducks or the Finnish national team.
Before watching the game from a luxury suite, Selanne confirmed that the Stanley Cup victory was his most memorable day in a hockey uniform.
"Yeah, but not only that," he said. "The biggest thing is that we won it right here."