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January 4, 2012 | 10:08pm ET
Age before beauty
 While the NHL's younger talent is making most of the headlines, the League's veteran stars are holding their own.

NEW YORK, NY -- The NHL is indubitably a league of the young superstar. Some of the game's most talented players are pulling in seven figures, yet most can't even legally rent a car and a few aren't even legally allowed to let a sip of alcohol touch their lips in the United States.

So, while these kids make us feel like were over-the-hill by 25, it's refreshing to see some very familiar names still lighting the lamp nightly.

When a player never tops his rookie totals, he is usually considered a flash in the pan. Maybe even a little beginners luck. Well, when you bury the puck the puck 76 times in your rookie season, there really isn't anywhere to go but down.

And in Teemu Selanne's case that is the truth, but doesn't tell the whole story.

Since first lacing up the skates for the Winnipeg Jets (the ones that now play in Phoenix), the Finnish forward has been one of the most consistent performers of the last two -- yes, TWO -- decades.

There was some talk this past off-season as to whether or not he would take the ice in Anaheim one final time. That speculation was squashed however, when Selanne posted a video to fans stating, "Hi guys. You guys knew I can't stop playing yet. So I'm back at least one more season. My middle name is 'One More.' And we start the season in Helsinki so I'll see you there."

The "Finnish Flash" has been nothing but stellar thus far, just off a point-per-game pace. Even more amazing has been his ability to stay consistent on one of the biggest underachieving teams this season. The 42-year-old has been nothing but impressive his whole career, and is still continuing to impress even in his early 40s.

And while Teemu has been a household name for almost 20 years, Ray Whitney has been quietly performing for almost the same amount of time. Whitney has never been the flashiest player, and has stayed out of the major market spotlight most of his career, while showcasing his talents in some of the smaller markets.

Consistency has been king for Whitney, who is nearly 40. He has surpassed the 20-goal mark nine times in his career, and he is on pace to break that mark again this season. His top-flight play even prompted his usually outspoken teammate Paul Bissonnette to take to Twitter and promote the play of Whitney.

"How many of you out there voted for Ray Whitney to be in the All Star Game? If not get to it. The Wizard has been lights out this year."

Hard to argue with the man, and the numbers speak for themselves. Whitney has 14 goals and 35 points in 39 games this year. Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett spoke to the Arizona Republic and explained that he is far from surprised at the elite level of performance from his winger.

"Age is just a number when you do the right things to prepare and get yourself ready to compete at this level," he said. "When you have the mind and skills that Whits has, you can have an impact, and that's what he's doing."

It would, of course, be remiss to not discuss the play of Jaromir Jagr. Although, who didn't really expect this out of him?

Jagr took a three-year sabbatical from the NHL and brought his talents to the KHL. It looked like the Czech winger was done with hockey in North America, and would ride out the rest of his career in Russia. Everyone was shocked when there were various outlets reporting that the former seven-time first team all-star would make his return to the NHL.

Watching him play, it's almost like he never left. Jagr has fit right in with the powerhouse Philadelphia Flyers, and has proved to everyone that he can still play his game. He is still effectively using his body to create space for his line-mates, and create plenty of scoring chances.

Paul Holmgren, the Flyers' General Manager, is hardly surprised, and knew he could be vintage Jagr.

"Jaromir Jagr is one of the better players in the game. He's a big body in front of the net, and he's still a very good player," Holmgren told reporters on Friday. "People forget about him because he's been out of the league for three seasons. But he can still play at this level."

Moving away from forwards, obviously one of best performers of the past few years, and one of the more unusual stories in the NHL has been Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Thomas didn't earn his first starting job in the NHL until after his 30th birthday.

The Flint, Michigan native led the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972 last season, and was a key cog in the championship run. Becoming the oldest person to win the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup finals was just icing on the cake for Thomas who has been one of the leagues top goaltenders for the past few seasons.

"Anybody that knows the story of Tim Thomas, he's taken a real bumpy road to get to the NHL," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said after the team's Stanley Cup Victory.

"He's had so many obstacles in front of him that he's overcome, it makes him a battler, it makes him the perfect goaltender for our organization because that's what we are, we're a blue-collar team that goes out and works hard and earns every inch of the ice that you can get."

While there are plenty of young superstars in the league, it's still impressive to see the veterans shine and dominate.

And while we may see a Swan's Song for some of these players in the next few years, we should cherish our chance to watch these guys play while we still can.

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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Oct. 28, 2011 The trade that kept Belfour in Chicago
Oct. 25, 2011 It's a young man's game
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