Sweet end to Selanne's swan song
"He told me he was sorry," Fowler said after a 5-0 bronze-medal loss to Selanne's Finland squad. "That's the kind of guy he is. He feels for other people. For him and all that he's done for the sport, how many Olympics he's played in and what he's done for Finland, I'm happy for him."
Fowler was feeling incredible disappointment for what turned into a nightmare two days for his team in this Olympics, two straight losses dropping them from gold-medal hopes to fourth place. But even in that lowest of the lows, it tells you about Selanne's impact on people that Fowler could still find it in him to express how he felt for the Finnish legend.
"If there's one guy on the planet that I feel happy for, [despite] losing that game, I think it's him," Fowler said. "He's one of the best players to ever live and one of the greatest guys I've known. Happy for Teemu, he deserves it."
Yes, he does. At 43, Selanne says this is it for him in the national-team jersey. On Saturday, he collected his fourth Olympic medal (three bronze, one silver) in his sixth and final Olympics, and perhaps this was the "sweetest" of them all, he said.
"To bounce back from that huge disappointment from [Friday] night, I'm so proud of my guys," Selanne said of the Finns' semifinal loss to Sweden. "We knew we could play our best game of the tournament tonight and we did. We had a meeting a couple of hours before the game, just the players. We said that you don't get this kind of chance very often, so let's try to take advantage of this and play for ourselves.
"We tried to remind that we deserve better than fourth place. Let's try and take what's left out there, and what a great ending. Twenty-six years ago, I played my first national-team game and I've been carrying this jersey with a lot of pride and love. Winning this last game, like this is a dream come true. I'm so proud of my teammates and what a great ending."
Oh, did we mention Selanne scored twice Saturday night?
"You got a 43-year-old guy who scores two goals, the way he moves, who knows, maybe he'll be back in four years when he's 47. You never know," said Finland teammate Olli Jokinen, smiling.
In all seriousness, though, you could tell how much it meant to Finnish players to let Selanne finish his national-team career on a high.
"We wanted to play as a team and win as a team. But I'm so happy for him that we could win the last game. He's such a great person."
Selanne addressed the team before the bronze-medal game, inspiring his teammates to once again rise up and grab that medal.
"He spoke before the game, he was saying, for the younger guys this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win the medal because there are no guarantees who is going to be here in four years and you don't want to throw these chances away," Jokinen said. "There are not many hockey players who are going to be able to say they have an Olympic medal in their office. It was a message for all of us that we know how tough it is to lose the game yesterday and we knew how tough for the U.S. to lose that game. Teemu wanted to make sure that the coaches, all the guys, knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win something. Yeah, we finished [in] third place, but we were able to beat Russia and we were able to beat the U.S. We won this bronze medal."
For Selanne, it was a final Olympic farewell. This is it for him in the Suomi uniform.
"It's an incredible feeling, but it's sad also," he said, looking down at the Suomi crest, asked how it felt to wear it for the last time. "It created so many memories, some disappointments, too. But that's life. When you get good moments, you appreciate those and enjoy them as much as I have. What an ending."
What an ending, indeed, Teemu.