Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On Teppo Numminen

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.
(Photo by Bill Wippert/Getty Images)


joe said...

im happy you find teppo to be an underrated defenseman, but i think most fans will remember his time in Buffalo for the lack of class the organization showed him by suspending him.

Heather B. said...

Joe, I understand people being upset about that but I would certainly hope it's not what people remember about his time here. That's a real disservice to Teppo.

Meg said...

I think Teppo exemplifies so much of what's good about athletics: the dedication, the perseverance, the sportsmanship...

Those are the things I'll think about when I think about his career here. And frankly, if the business side of the sport ever overshadows my ability to appreciate qualities like those then that will be the time for me to stop being a sports fan because it wouldn't be fun anymore.

Shelby Rose said...

I am also glad that Teppo's career ended here. I know that his veteran leadership and hard work will be missed on the ice and in the locker room.

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I hope he can someday come back to the Sabres and work with the organization. Any organzation in the league, really.

Anne M said...

I'm sure Vanek's Hair will be here to say this himself as well, but he and I talked all the time about how much that 07-08 team missed Teppo. Those games where they had a late one-goal (or two-goal) lead and then coughed it up and lost in OT? I bet with Teppo there to clear the puck, they won a couple of those games and maybe even made the playoffs. But no one remembers the boring solid defense; they remember the flashy, clutch stuff, so Drury and Briere got all the attention.

The suspension is the last thing I think of regarding Teppo. I figure if he was willing to come back to the team, he either came to terms with it or wasn't bothered in the first place, so who am I to continue to be worked up about it?

Patty (in Dallas) said...

I really liked Teppo when he was a Star for a short time. He seemed like a really good guy.

Bowl of Pork said...

Wrote a whole string of long comments and deleted them all. This time, simple is best.

I <3 Teppo. Have since Winnipeg, always will.