Early this morning, Team Canada repeated their result from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games by defeating Sweden, 3-0, to earn the gold medal. Their defense and goaltender were simply too suffocating for any other national team to generate much offense, and as the old saying goes, “Defense wins championships.” However, despite winning the gold, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) did not come from Team Canada. Teemu Selanne, the 43-year-old from Team Finland, was the well deserved recipient of the MVP award in this year’s Olympic ice hockey tournament.
Team Finland was seen as a wildcard from the very beginning. On paper, they did not seem to have the offense needed to keep up with the superstar studded teams of Russia, the United States or Canada. Their goaltending was considered one of the best in the tournament, but many believed that would not be enough to medal. Finland’s odds looked even worse when injury after injury piled up before the Olympics even began. After the first few preliminary games, Finland lost centers Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula, Saku Koivu, and Alexander Barkov, a devastating blow down a key position for any team. In the end, Finland surprised everyone, winning the bronze medal with a commanding victory over a shell-shocked United States team.
Selanne was a big reason for that bronze medal win. He scored the opening goal early in the second period, finding a slight edge in speed over the United States defender and backhanding the puck past goaltender Jonathan Quick. It was a lead the Finns would not relinquish, adding goals from Jussi Jokinen, Olli Maatta, and Jusso Hietanen. Selanne would also add a second, his 24th Olympic goal. These Olympic games are likely Selanne’s last, as the 43-year-old has made it clear that he plans on retiring at the end of the NHL season. Though he has never won the gold medal in Men’s Olympic ice hockey, Selanne ends his Olympic career with a silver medal, three bronze medals, and a well deserved MVP award.
His leadership was a big reason for Finland’s medal result. He was named captain of the team for the first time in his Olympic career, after being the alternate for many previous games. The choice seemed to be a no-brainer, especially with how his teammates spoke of the veteran. Finnish forward, Mikael Granlund, was not born yet when Selanne made his first appearance on Finland’s national team in 1991, but he called it a dream of his to play on the same line as Selanne. Jussi Jokinen echoed Granlund’s sentiments, saying that “every one of us has had Teemu for our idol when we were growing up.” He contributed six points in the six games that Finland played, including four goals. And it was a speech from Selanne in the locker room before the bronze medal game that inspired the Finns to play as complete a game as many have seen.
Selanne was not the only possible choice for the tournament’s most valuable player award. The two goaltenders in the gold medal game, Canada’s Carey Price and Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist, were also outstanding for their respective teams. Many argue that Price’s shutout performance in the games against the United States and Sweden should have earned him the right to be the award’s recipient. And while either choice would have been acceptable and likely cause very little complaint, the media and the Olympic ice hockey committee got it right when they named Teemu Selanne as the tournament’s well deserved MVP.
By Jonathan Gardner