SOCHI, Russia – Teemu Selanne thought Russia would be the end of his time with Finland’s national team. It was his on his mind before bed on the eve of the game, as it was when he woke up.
“It was kind of a weird feeling,” he said.
So he decided to delay the inevitable.
Selanne, making his 35th appearance in a Winter Olympics game, had a goal and an assist in Finland’s 3-1 elimination of Russia, scoring the eventual game-winner. Selanne, 43, broke an Olympic record for oldest player to score a goal – a record he set just days earlier.
“Nobody really believes in us,” he said. “They played four games in five nights and we tried to make that our advantage. I think that’s what happened. It’s a big day for us.”
Big day for Finland. Sad day for the host nation.
“To be honest, I am a little bit sad for them,” said Selanne of the Russians. “They had a big dream to win the gold medal here and it doesn’t work. It is kind of disappointing in many ways because that would be a great story. It is proving to the hockey world that you never know. The gap is so small with these teams.”
In the 22 years Selanne has been an Olympian – he made his first appearance two years before Finnish defenseman Olli Maata was born – he’s seen the gap between the Finns and other nations narrow dramatically.
“Finnish hockey has improved so much,” he said. “I remember watching when I was a little kid Makarov, Krutov, Larionov, Kasatonov and Fetisov. They were the best line in the world and it was fun to watch how easy everything was for them. It is hard to believe that we can now compete with the best Russian players in the world.”
They competed by playing what’s been a patented part of Finnish hockey: Staying within their system, counter-punching rather than carrying play, relying on strong goaltending as the last line of defense.
Allowing others to make the mistakes, to get frustrated, to blink first. Never lacking confidence that they’ll be in games until the end.
"You've got to believe and this is a perfect example,” he said.
“It's a good feeling. You know that nobody ever believed that we could win but it doesn't matter, the experts are wrong many times.”
And with that, Teemu plays another day.