Regardless of whether or not hockey is actually going to be played this year, the Anaheim Ducks are set to lose their entire second line by the end of this season and, with it, future hall of fame right wing Teemu Selanne.
Since his tear through the late '90s with Paul Kariya, pushing the Ducks to the franchise's first playoff appearances, all the way to his re-signing with Anaheim in 2005 and leading them to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 2007, Selanne has been the uncontested face of the franchise and fan favorite.
Now in his early 40s, Selanne, who led the team in scoring last season, continues to be a huge piece of the Ducks offensive game plan. The Finnish-born right winger has since signed a contract with Anaheim to play one more season, though he is facing an incredibly tough decision with that season now in jeopardy due to the NHL lockout that began back in September and which has yet to be resolved.
If the NHL doesn't reach an agreement in time to save the 2012-13 season, Selanne will have to wait well beyond his 43rd birthday until he could play his next NHL game.
The odds of Selanne having an entire year away from hockey and then coming back for another season is highly unlikely. At this point, Ducks fans need to consider the possibility that the current lack of a collective bargaining agreement could ultimately cost Selanne what would have been his last year in the league.
The Impact on Selanne's Legacy
There's no question that this scenario is one of the least favorable under which a player of Selanne's caliber could retire. The prospect of having him around for one last season is something that's extremely important to Anaheim's fanbase, thus having Selanne retire under such circumstances is tough to accept.
However, would the forced retirement cause us to look at Selanne's career in a different light than we otherwise would have? Absolutely not.
Selanne's career is certain to land him in the Hall of Fame as soon as he's eligible, and such a career transcends year-to-year events, making isolated incidents like the lockout or his injury-plagued 2010-11 campaign much more difficult to remember in the long run.
Selanne will be remembered for his record-setting 76 goals in his rookie season; his leadership and offensive contribution to the Ducks in his late 30s and early 40s; and his widely recognized reputation as one of the classiest players to ever take the ice at the professional level.
The lockout changes none of that and at worst will cost Selanne an unknown season in which an honest assessment of Anaheim's team and potential wouldn't have pegged them for a deep playoff run.
A respectable offensive campaign with a team destined for a 10th or 11th seed in the Western Conference is probably all Selanne will be missing should this season be canceled and force him into "early" retirement. There's no asterisk next to his name in the record books, no scandal or steroid accusation and absolutely nothing left for Selanne to prove.
He's truly left it all on the ice.
To be certain, it would be incredibly disappointing to see Selanne retire because of a technical process that hockey fans don't even care about. From a fan's perspective, that's the last thing you'd hope to see. However Selanne's legacy and contribution to the Ducks and the hockey community as a whole is set in stone and won't change because of something that is completely out of his control.
While lockouts are disappointing and a fact of hockey life, this one hits home a little bit harder for Ducks fans. We can still hold out hope for a CBA agreement and a 50-60 game season for Selanne; though if that doesn't happen, we also need to be prepared to accept the reality that the Finnish Flash will almost certainly call it a career.