Rarely does a metaphor write itself before your very eyes,
let alone before the eyes of 15,070 onlookers.
Teemu Selanne was the focus of attention even before the Ducks were set to play the Dallas Stars on Monday, when a pregame ceremony at
center ice recognized Selanne for becoming the 18th NHL player ever to score 600
goals. The man he was about to pass in the record books - Jari Kurri,
whose 601 goals are the most by a Finnish-born player – had flown in from Helsinki just for the occasion.
So who would have guessed that Selanne’s big moment would have come with a pass?
It was a very good pass too – more of a chip-shot to lift
the puck over the stick of Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley – that found Nick
Bonino, playing just the second game of his NHL career. The young center
promptly flicked the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen at 8:11 of the second period for career goal
Back on the Anaheim bench, the 39-year-old sitting on goal number 600 handed the historic puck to the 20-year-old
now sitting on goal number 1, both flashing wide smiles.
In hockey, they do not pass torches. They pass pucks.
“He said he still remembers his first goal,” Bonino
said. “I told him I’d probably remember this one as long as I’m
long as I live, too.”
It would be tempting at this point to compare the potential of Bonino to the career of Selanne, but that would be unfair to Bonino. For now, the comparison begins and ends with one night in which each player struggled tremendously to score, aside from that one historic moment.
Selanne has now had four games in which to tie or surpass Kurri, and has fallen short despite plenty of opportunities. Some of those opportunities have seemed forced. Against Dallas, and also last Friday in Edmonton, the opposing team pulled its goaltender while trailing by two goals, and Selanne was sent out to kill a short-handed situation – something he never does.
Perhaps his best chance Monday came with the clock nearing zero in the third period, when Selanne shot a loose puck on net from the red line, and saw it miss wide right by about 10 feet.
“It’s something I haven’t done for like years,” he said. “It’s almost a year since there was no goalie.”
Bonino felt the frustration twice in the first period – once when he got Lehtonen 1-on-1 but somehow lost the puck off his stick while attempting to shoot, and later when he whacked and fanned on a loose puck in the crease before Lehtonen covered up.
“I hit the crossbar, and Bobby gave me a gift backdoor,” Bonino said. “I don’t even know what happened. I kind of angled my stick and it went right over the top. But just keep going at it. Corey (Perry) told me, ‘just keep working’ and it ended up working out.
“It’s going to come with games. It’s only two games. Every arena I go to – ‘Wow, this is the Colorado Avalanche arena!’ – every one. But it’s a good experience. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Maybe Bonino needs to seek out Selanne on the bench more often. When you score in 52 NHL arenas like Selanne has, the awe of of being in each tends to wear off. Selanne has lit the lamp in every active arena in the league save the New Jersey Devils’ Prudential Center, so Bonino will be on his own in Newark.
Of course, if Selanne retires at the end of this season, Bonino will be on his own everywhere the Ducks travel.
But that’s the beauty of a “puck-passing” moment like Monday’s. For one night, it makes everyone feel like the future is in good hands.