The last game of the 2007-2008 season didn't mean jack to the Buffalo Sabres. But it clearly meant everything to Teppo Numminen and for that reason, I think I'll always remember it. Looking over his career stats today, that season's line stands out, the 1 under GAMES PLAYED in stark contrast to pretty much every other season. But coming after open heart surgery and an intense recovery period, I'd say that's a pretty special 1 and I'd say it could only come from a pretty special person.
During his time here, I really became attached to Teppo, moreso than I think I even realized until today. I think he was better than a lot of people gave him credit for, especially in his first two years. Nothing flashy just good, dependable defense. Gather up the puck, skate away from the hit, get the puck out of the zone. Over and over and over. And while I've already written this many, many times here, I'll write it once more, just for old time's sake. In the shadow of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, Teppo's loss to that 2007-2008 team was desperately underrated by fans and media. Maybe that team could have salvaged something with his steadying presence on the ice and in the dressing room. Losing him was the fatal blow to that season.
The Finnish article everyone is linking to (I first saw it at From the Rink) contains a really wonderful quote:
If somebody had told me [in the beginning] that I would be playing in the NHL at the age of 40 and have a total of 1,454 games in my pocket, I wouldn't have believed it. What can you do but just wonder and be grateful of it?
That about sums it up. Good luck to you and yours, Teppo. I'm glad we got to be a part of your career and I have to admit, I'm glad ours is the last jersey you wore. I'd say you've earned that retirement.