Hello again from Helsinki!
It was a great day here for Day Two, with a lot of action and a lot of hockey. This morning, the Wild players shook off the cobwebs for the first practice of the trip, which was held in the practice rink underneath Hartwall Areena, where the team will play Carolina on Thursday and Friday.
Rink might be stretching what this place was actually like. The ceilings and walls are like rock, and in parts, stick out over the ice surface. It didn’t seem to bother the players, who seemed to enjoy the up-tempo practice.
It wasn’t official at the time of practice, but the Wild did confirm the signing of goaltender Jose Theodore later in the day. Theodore will join the team next week, which means he missed out on the team’s trip to Sauna Island this afternoon. It was a player and coach-only event, and I’m doubting we’ll find out too much about all that went on, but I’ll challenge my inner-Mike Russo to try and dig up some dirt.
The entire front office staff, including owner Craig Leipold, GM Chuck Fletcher and Assistant GM Brent Flahr, took in tonight’s Finnish Elite League Game between H.I.F.K. Helsinki and Assat. Mikael Granlund, the Wild’s first round pick last year, plays for H.I.F.K. and he put on a show for his future employers. He finished the night with a goal and three assists and was named the game’s Second Star after his club bulldozed to an 11-3 victory.
This one wasn’t as close as the score indicated as Assat didn’t appear to even be in the same class. They had no answer for Granlund and his Finnish superstar linemate, Ville Peltonen. As for Granlund, he’s going to be a good one. He’s still just a kid playing with adults, but he always seems to be in the right spot, make the right play and he gets to the net. That’s how he scored his goal, parking himself in front and tipping a high shot as it whizzed by.
Russo and I spoke to a 16-year-old Granlund fan named Tuomas, who wore his number 64 jersey. The youngster says Granlund “will be one of the most talented Finnish players ever when he is older.” He was a great interview, and you can see that on Wild.com later as well.
We had the chance to talk to Mikael after the game, and that and some highlights will be posted on Wild.com later today.
What an atmosphere! The crowd, especially in the corner where we were seated, were singing, chanting, dancing, clapping and waving flags for the entire game. The only time they weren’t going crazy was during the intermissions, when the arena nearly empties out completely. My only complaint was that every time Assat took a penalty, the song “Bad to the Bone” would play. It didn’t help that Assat took roughly 134 penalties in this game. Other than that, it was an amazing experience, and truly an atmosphere I’ve never had the chance to see. I’m already excited for Monday’s exhibition in Tampere, which by the way is pronounced “Tam-pear-ah.”
There were some fights in this one as well, which from what I understand, is not all that common in Finnish games. Assat started getting pretty chippy, especially when it was clear a blowout was going to happen.
Keep an eye out on Wild.com for more on Granlund, and plenty of video in the next few hours. Since I’m told I’m getting some bad information on my Finnish translations, I will just say “talk to you later.” It only makes sense, because I’ve hardly run into anybody here that doesn’t speak English.