Teemu Selänne is truly one of the all-time greats in hockey. He was selected 10th overall in the 1998 NHL Draft. And what a pick that would turn out to be. When Selänne retired, he did as a true Anaheim icon. He recorded 684 goals and 1 457 points in 1 451 games and won one Stanley Cup in 2007. On June 26, 2017, Selänne was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as the only second Finn after Jari Kurri.
If you watched Selänne play during his prime time, you couldn’t imagine him doing anything else but playing hockey. But it wasn’t always obvious to him or those around him. Before making it in the NHL and still playing in the Finnish league, Selänne actually had to have a job besides hockey. Selänne wasn’t the only player in the league with a job on the side, but he was the one with the perhaps most unexpected.
”My mom had been the head of home day care in Espoo, and Paavo (his twin brother) and I had worked at playgrounds in the summer since we were 15 or 16, Teemu wrote in his autobiography.
”I had tried to be a full-time hockey player after the army, but that wasn’t for me then. I couldn’t get out of the bed when Sirpa (his wife) left for work, so I spent my days at home waiting for the practices to begin. I was so phlegmatic that I even yawned in practices.”
That’s how Teemu Selänne, in the same time as he played professional hockey, became a kindergarten teacher.
”We desperately needed male teacher, and the kids loved Teemu,” Marja Virkki, manager of an Espoo kindergarten, said.
Teemu Selänne was injured for most of the 1989-90 season and had to stop working at the kindergarten. But when fully healthy and back on the ice, he was also back at the kindergarten. He worked there until he moved to Winnipeg.
”It was the best job. I played table hockey inside and road hockey outside with the kids. We had something going on all the time, just like when I was a kid. I really wanted to instill a sporty and positive attitude in the children,” Teemu said.
”Plus, I didn’t think about my hockey career when I was there. Another upside with only working mornings was that the kids were still upbeat and happy.
”They liked to play hockey with me but obviously, they didn’t know that I was famous or anything, even though some reporters visited the kindergarten. To the kids, I was just Teemu.”
Teemu Selänne learned a great lot from working at a kindergarten. Teemu Selänne especially remembers one detail. Next to a kindergarten teacher’s name, it could stand KGT. Next to an early childhood teacher’s name, PCT. Next to Teemu’s name, he added ”KoK.”
”King of Kids, Teemu said.