Archive for the ‘ice hockey’ Category


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In case you missed the Twitter and Instagram announcement, I have re-signed for the Bristol Pitbulls for the 2016-17 campaign and will also continue as an ambassador for Cross Check Clothing. The decision to re-sign with the Pitbulls was an easy one and it is still part of my grand plan that I told my coach when I first signed after successful try-outs seven years ago. I have set myself a goal to be more of an impact player for this season and really make a difference every time I’m on the ice. 

And for the partnership with Cross Check Clothing? I consider myself fortunate to be working with them. The guys are really humble and down to earth and live and breathe the game. The clothing that they are producing is appealing not only to players, but to fans alike. For me, I want to help expose the brand to more people and show that the apparel line belongs both in the changing room and in the stands. Plus it’s hella comfortable to wear and you may have seen on Instagram that I love wearing Cross Check gear to the gym too. I’m a huge believer in people that execute their vision and I really, truly want to help that brand grow. I don’t want to be the guy that just begs for sponsorship and then vanishes into thin air. Whatever influence I have, I want it to help Cross Check Clothing grow.

To say it has been a busy off-season would be a gross understatement. It has been manic and completely non-stop. reeniahororeeniaAs I said on the blog post about the season review, I had a difficult last season and it ended in disappointment, with not qualifying for the play-offs and being eliminated in the semi-finals of the Cup competition. That combined with the fact that I battled a rather persistent back problem for the whole season, made me question whether hockey was still on the cards for me.

The back problem wasn’t the only one that made me question whether I could rise to the challenge of another season. 2013-14 season I played through with a torn labrum and ruptured bicep tendon, which I was repaired in the off-season of 2014, 2014-15 season was amazing with winning the conference championship and play-off championship, but I battled with mental health issues that year, which knocked my confidence and I started the season not being able to play too well due to not having any strength and a limited range of motion in my right arm. 2015-2016 season was what it was due to the back.  Last season I played 17 games, out of which I was 100% for five games. That’s three seasons that have been more or less ruined by injuries and my hope is that I will stay healthy for a full season.

Last time I didn’t have any injuries or issues to deal with was 2011-2012 season, when, in light of stats, I had one of my most productive seasons offensively.

lisaareeniahoroFor those five games where I was completely pain free, I felt that I was playing probably the best hockey of my career and would’ve probably been able to do some good things for the team. But when you’re playing with an injury where you can’t feel parts of your left leg properly and every stride feels like you have broken your ankle, it’s difficult to perform.

However, after thinking about it for about a week after the Cup semi-final loss, I still have what it takes and I’m happy to be back playing for the team I’ve represented for the past six years and will be returning for for my seventh season. I realised early on that despite all the trials and tribulations I have undergone, I had the passion for the game and I was still willing to put in the work off the ice in-order to play.

One thing I was constantly asked by family and friends was, why put yourself through that again. Aren’t you afraid travelessentialsthat you’ll hurt yourself again. This is something that is really difficult to explain in words. The best I can do is to say that it is a fire inside me that tells me to keep pushing. I guess in every hockey players’ life there comes a time when the flame still burns but something tells you that it is time. For me the flame is there and at no point was the voice telling me that it’s time to call it quits strong enough. My life is incredibly busy, and I just could not imagine a life without hockey season in it.

I got back to work early on conditioning and have been working out to a program that has worked quite well the last two years. The only thing that I have changed in the regimen is the weight I’m lifting and I’ve added more explosive training to it. Without going into too many fitness nuances over it, I’ve also done a lot of HIIT workouts to really focus on anaerobic performance. Hockey is a game where you need to go flat out for 45 seconds max everytime you are out there. From all the conditioning work I’ve done, I’m more confident than ever. I’ve never felt this strong or good in myself (which also helps with the ongoing mental health issues), so the only thing left to do now is to get out on the ice.

hockeybase1One of the other areas of my game that I’ve worked on is shooting. Over the last few weeks I spent a lot of time at Hockey Base in Finland literally just working on my shots. As with fitness training, the more repetitions you do, the better you get, so I invested a grand total of €20 on a stick while I was out there and got shooting. The hardest shot with that cheap stick was clocked at 105km/h (65mph). I would go as far as to say that it would’ve been at the 80mph range if I had my TRUE stick. As a result of all the shooting work I did, I got blisters on both my hands which shows how much time I’ve dedicated to shooting. Ideally, I would like to dedicate more time to shooting and I have all the necessary equipment at home, but time is the issue.keppikasittelya

As I posted on Instagram in June, my wife and I welcomed our daughter and with my 3-year old son wanting more time with daddy, my time to work on shooting is limited at home. I mean I guess I could do it once the kids have gone to bed, but I would hazard a guess, that I would be rather un-popular with our neighbours.

The other thing I’ve worked on at the summer has been stickhandling. This is an area that I will continue to work on throughout the season. I’ve got hands as soft as concrete, so I’m no Connor McDavid but as with everything, by practicing it will get better.

I am determined and confident going into the season. My main goal is to help the team succeed and win games. What I want is to win a championship again. While I have battled injuries and found the flame to carry on playing, I am no spring chicken anymore and would like to add another title onto the mantel piece.


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When TRUE Hockey unveiled its Z-Palm glove, it set the hockey world ablaze on social media. People were intrigued and amazed at the design of the glove and were at awe to the potential solution to the age old problem with hockey gloves: The worn out palms.

TRUE Z-Palm gloves feature a unique design element in that you can replace the palm of the glove with relative ease. At a recent hockey convention the fastest time recorded was 25 seconds for a change of palm. So it all sounds good as an idea and in principle, but does it actually work, or does the zip included in the glove make it uncomfortable to wear? Are there any flaws in the glove? Is it really a stroke of genius or a flash in the pan product?

We have been testing the TRUE  6.0SBP Z-Palm gloves for a few months now to find out what the gloves are about and to find out if TRUE has managed to solve the problem that plagues many hockey players across the globe.

Imagine the scene, you have broken in your gloves and they are comfortable as anything on your hands. Then through wear and tear, the palm develops a hole. You might get it re-palmed or covered up, which can sometimes make the overall feel of the glove awkward, or you ignore it and let the hole grow until you fork out for a new pair. It’s a cycle that players go through regularly. Some do it after every season, some mid season and those that are lucky, will hold out until there is no palm left on their glove before they buy new ones.

The benchmark glove we’re testing these against is the Warrior AX1 gloves as this set of gloves, in our opinion is the best in the market in terms of the 4-roll look and feel.  The current CCM 4-roll gloves provide a good feel and a good level of protection, but the Warrior AX1 is the better all-round fit at the moment and we are benchmarking the TRUE 6.0 SBP Pro Z-Palm glove against the Warrior AX1.

Out of the box

Out of the box the TRUE A6.0 Z-Palm gloves feel comfortable when you first put them on. The materials within the

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glove are breathable and feel comfortable against your skin. The gloves, similar to the Warrior ones, have an almost ready-broken in feel. The TRUE gloves feel like you could walk away from the store and jump straight into a game.

The gloves we tried came with the standard Z-palm palms. The palm felt a little bit thicker and almost heavier than on some of the other gloves. However, on the flipside, the standard Z-palms do provide you with good levels of grip and the materials used in the palms are of high quality. The first impression was, however, that the material might not be as breathable as on the AX1 gloves.

Otherwise, the design of the gloves is minimalistic, but when you look at it and feel the materials, you are confident that you are holding a premium product.

Comfort and Fit:

As mentioned the, materials used in the Z-Palm gloves give you a comfortable feel. The outer shell of the glove comprises of 24mm pro-grade EPP foam and 1mm PE Inserts, which gives you additional protection as most gloves on the market use 20mm size padding in their gloves.

The inner liner of the glove feels comfortable to the hand and is right up there with all the ‘big-boys’. The gloves provide high levels of comfort without sacrificing protection or adding weight. In terms of fit, we have been testing the 13” glove and it fits perfectly well. The only real niggle we’ve come across with them in comparison to your ‘standard’  gloves is that the inner padding and liner can move around when changing the palms, which will lead to some fiddling. It’s not a major flaw by any stretch of the imagination.

What is quite different in comparison to other gloves is the range of movement you get from the thumb. We would argue that the thumb area is more flexible than in others, and certainly we felt that we got a better grip on the stick than compared to other makes of gloves.

Protection:

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Gloves are used to protect. That is their main job and in game and training situations, the TRUE gloves perform as you would expect. As mentioned above, the thumb area of the glove is quite flexible. To combat hyperextension injuries that are often result of a fall, TRUE has integrated a protection mechanism, the Trueflex thumb. It is fairly standard in all makes of gloves, but on the TRUE gloves the hyperextension protection is longer and sturdier. For example in the Warrior AX1 and Sher-Wood gloves, you can hyper extend the thumb before you notice that there is anything stopping the motion. With the Trueflex you feel the protection is there and you will be hard pressed to hyperextend the thumb. However, it is important to note that in any piece of equipment features such as these don’t guarantee that they are sure to eliminate injuries, but should significantly reduce the risk.

In fact, the beauty of the Trueflex thumb is in the flexibility of the thumb. You are able to get a far better grip on the stick straight away when you start using the gloves thanks to being able to close your hand into a near-perfect fist in the glove. On other gloves, the thumb is often quite rigid and even on the Warrior gloves which allow for some thumb movement, it doesn’t come close to the TRUE gloves in terms of the grip you are able to get on the stick. This is by far superior when compared to the latest offerings from CCM, Warrior and Bauer.

In terms of the other protective elements, the gloves provide protection on par with top manufacturers in the segment. Thanks to the additional 4mm of padding in the TRUE gloves, you are better off. The protection around the wrist is good, as well as the padding around the fingers. TRUE has achieved a great level of protection whilst not sacrificing comfort of the glove.

Owning:

What we think make the TRUE Z-Palm gloves worth owning is the fact that you can customise your gloves with different palms. You can get the 4-roll look and feel whilst being able to enjoy palm materials usually reserved for anatomically designed gloves.

If you want long life out of your protective equipment, you do need to look after it. One thing that we did notice on few of the palms, mainly in the Pro and grip versions of the palm it can take a while for them to dry out. If you have back to back games, you might come to find that the palm area is still a little damp from the night before.

Having discussed this with TRUE, it is recommended that you partially unzip the palm to allow more air flow through the glove. We have since tried this trick and have noticed that it does indeed speed up the drying process of the glove.

Fitting the palm

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The burning question then: how easy is it to replace the palm? Well, we haven’t gotten anywhere near the record time that was set at the exhibition, but it is safe to say that you can do a pair of gloves in between periods if needs be and you’ll have time to listen to instructions from the coaches as well.

Removing a palm is easy and effortless. Here TRUE has done a good job with the design of the glove as the entire palm side of the glove opens up, which helps immensely with the changing process and the zips do not interfere with comfort of the glove.

However, attaching a new palm is something that takes a bit of getting used to. The first few times of putting on a new palm were a little bit of troublesome, but as with everything practice makes perfect. The challenge we’ve faced is in the fitting of a new palm. Once you get to the middle finger, you need to ensure that you keep the zip as straight as possible as there is a tendency of it getting stuck.

What might be an overlooked design element here is that the zip is positioned quite cleverly so that it should not be easily damaged during the game. The only way we see that the Z-palm design could be compromised is by someone stepping/skating on/over your glove from the palm side and by that stage, you’ll have other things on your mind as opposed to a zip.

Overall, the changing process is easy enough, even if putting on a new palm is the more difficult one of the changing process.

Conclusion:

In the past we have called TRUE Hockey as a new-comer to the hockey market, but in the space of few short years, the company has established itself with innovative products in both sticks and now protective equipment in gloves.

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The Z-Palm gloves is something that other manufacturers and players will be looking at with envy. The design looks great, they gloves feel great, but the real beauty of the TRUE A6.0 SBP Pro gloves is the Z-Palm innovation. By buying a pair of gloves, you are essentially buying five pairs. You have greater level of customisation opportunities to you and you can try new styles of palms without it costing you a new pair of gloves. The Z-Palm gives you longevity for the gloves as you don’t need to replace the gloves, but rather just the palm. If you are looking for gloves that provide you with good levels of protection, mobility the TRUE gloves should be on your shopping list. What will tip it in TRUE’s favour over any other manufacturer is the Z-Palms. Like said, by buying a set of TRUE gloves, you are essentially buying five pairs of gloves at once, all thanks to the customisation options the Z-Palm affords you.

In comparison to the Warrior AX1 gloves, the TRUE A6.0 SBP Pro Z-Palm gloves stack up equally well. The TRUE glove could end up costing you a bit less (depending on retailer) and you get a bit more for your money thanks to the Z-Palms. In terms of fit and comfort, the gloves are pretty much equal, though we have found the TRUE glove is slightly more breathable in games and training. Both gloves use odour eliminating technologies as well, with TRUE opting for Microban technology, while Warrior uses Polygenie, and to be fair, you would not be able to tell the difference. It is a close call when comparing the gloves like for like, but thanks to the price and the Z-Palm we would recommend the TRUE A6.0 SBP Pro Z-Palms. You get a premium, top-end pro product at a good price point and thanks to the replaceable palms, you get more for you money.


Pic1I’ve often been asked in interviews (the rare few I’ve done) of who are the players I look up-to. It is always a difficult one to answer, and usually my stock answer has been Jari Kurri, as he was the player I looked up to growing up.

Of late and the more my style of play has evolved and developed there are a number of players whose style I admire and try to model myself after. Yes, I still admire and take inspiration from the likes of Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Martin St. Louis and so on. But if I was asked which player most personifies the type of player that I would like to see myself as, I can now give a more defined answer.

Pic2As my style of play is team centric and (of-late) on the energy side, I take my ques from players like Jarkko Ruutu, Leo Komarov, Ville Nieminen, Scott Hartnell, Dale Weise and so on. You could say that the players I try to model myself after are more on the ‘blue-collar’ side of things and where they might not be the real superstars of the game, they are the types that are often the unsung heroes and the underdogs on a team.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love scoring goals. Who doesn’t, but I have identified that I liken myself more to the likes of Ruutu and Komarov. Ruutu may have been considered a pest during his career, but I have nothing but respect for him and his work ethic. Here’s a guy that put everything on the line for his dream to play in the pros and did everything in his power every night to help his team win. He battled adversity and mentally tough battles of low ice time for years. Not only do I admire Jarkko Ruutu’s mental toughness, but he is a very, VERY smart guy and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he became involved in hockey in a coaching or front office capacity. He is a hockey-smart guy who was able to read the flow of the game maybe better than anyone else. Maybe it was because of his reputation in the rink that he had to be aware of who was out there with him and who was likely to take his head off.

Pic3I mostly watched Ruutu and Komarov in the Finnish national team and the games I’ve watched them play in the NHL were/are entertaining. Both players always put their bodies on the line and try to help their teams win. OK I’m not as physical as Ruutu and neither do I fight (my career stats are 0-3 for fights) but what I do look to bring to the game is my everything. Every game I suit up for and every shift I play, I give 100% and try and do the things that help out my team. I take great pride in creating offensive buzz but at the same time I’m equally pleased if my line doesn’t get scored on. If it means that I have to play a shadow to a player all night or that I hustle up and down the ice a few times, that is fine by me. As long as my presence and my actions on the ice help contribute to a greater cause.

Yes, I would love to put up points and to a greater extent I try to do that every time I’m out there, but sometimes you end up just creating the pressure and other lines capitalise on it, or you end up bagging yourself trying to get the puck out of your zone on a PK, but y’know what, there’s a certain romanticism in that. In both situations, I can look at it and say “we were able to do that because of what my line did” and give myself (and linemates) a pat on the back and then it’s focussing on the next shift.

You might say that guys like Ruutu, Komarov, Hartnell etc aren’t the most skilled players on the planet, but one thing you can’t put a measure on is heart. To me guys like that so important to a team because of the work ethic and work they do on the ice.

pic4It’s easy to say that you look up to guys like Ovechkin, Crosby, McKinnon etc. They are superstars and super skilled. Yes they all do have heart, but for me, I find that there’s more intrigue and so many nuances to the likes of Hartnell and what they bring to the table with their skill set. It’s guys like that who enable the work that the superstars do.

So to answer the question of what player I look up to and if I could have the skill set of any player who would it be? A) I think Leo Komarov tops the list of active players and B) If I could have the combined skill set of the Habs’ line of Weise – Desharnais – Fleischman, I would be over the moon with that.

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There’s a common conception among people that hockey players are wild party animals. To an extent we are. You might’ve heard the stories of the Bruins’ epic Stanley Cup party bar tap, or other legendary tales from within the game. Or just recently how the NHL has a rising number of players allegedly using cocaine. For me, having a good time is part of the game, but for me, the parties are more or less a thing of the past.  Boring old fart? Let me explain this

I’m not saying I’m teetotal, or that I don’t drink at all during the season. I usually have a beer after the game in the pub, but I very rarely get to a stage where I would be classed as drunk. For me, hockey is about setting guidelines and being disciplined in your day-to-day life, both in-season and off-season. Perhaps that is what fascinates me in the game so much – the personal discipline that is required. I usually schedule four times into the year when I allow myself to let loose a little bit; Cup Final (providing we win), Conference championship, Play-off championship (Providing we win) and end of season party. Last season I let loose three times out of the four. Anything else to me is excess and one thing I’m trying to cut out is excess. Of any kind. If we don’t achieve any of the big wins, then there’s no partying either. 

I’m all for blowing out a little steam. We all need to do it and it is a very human thing to do. Some people like to go out, some people like to relax at home, go to the cinema and so forth. For me, going out during the season, or the reason why I go out so rarely is a conscious decision that has reasons behind it.  

blog1The first one is that if I go out, I know I will miss a workout that I have scheduled for that day and invariably, the day after will be a total write off too. If we didn’t take into account the above criterion when I allow myself to let loose and assuming that you go out every week it would mean that I would miss 104 workouts per year. That is 104 chances of making yourself a better player and a better person through hard work. In those 104 days, someone else will be pounding the streets and lifting the weight that I should be lifting to get better, stronger and faster. I would cheat myself and my team if I allowed myself to slack that much during the year.

Second reason is that I enjoy having clarity of thought. When I was straight edge, it was one of the things that I really enjoyed was that my thinking wasn’t cloudy (or impaired) and that I could rationalise all my actions to myself and be accountable for what I did and didn’t do. Now, if I for some reason skip a workout, that is on me and trust me, it will eat away at me like it does when we lose a game. No matter how well I reason the decision to myself, be it an injury or if I just need to sleep. Being hungover or drunk is a piss poor excuse to me. Sure you could train hungover, but the quality of your work output would be so diminished you might as well not do it.

Thirdly, like I mentioned, I’m trying to cut out excess and drinking would – in my mind – ruin the work that I have already done Blog2during the week. Hangover is a state, where effectively, your body eats itself as it is trying to get rid of all the toxins. That’s not to say that I only eat kale and that my body is chiselled from stone. Far fucking from it. I’m a human being, not an antique Greek god statue.

Fourth reason being – and I’m going to be showing my age here – I just do not see the point of going out. When I was a teenager and through university, I partied… I partied hard. I think I got all the ‘crazy’ out of my system.

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Photo courtesy of Flyfifer Photography.


Fifth reason is that I simply cannot cope with my hangovers. They are brutal and they last for days. After the end of season party, it took me three days to feel ‘normal’ again.

Hockey is a sport where nothing is given to you. You need to take everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. You need to be able to take possession of the puck by checking opponents, you need to create space for yourself and your line mates, you need to be able to take space away from opponents, you need to take your place in the roster and so on. The only way to do that is to be in good enough condition strength and fitness wise that you are able to take everything that is needed. Nothing is given to you and it is therefore so important that you are able to put in the work off the ice, so that life on the ice is that much easier.

This is in no way saying that everyone should adhere to my school of thought. Because that is what it is. It is my school of thought and I’m not going to be pressing my views on anyone else to say that “this is the way you should do things”. I’m not judging guys who go out (except if they turn up drunk or hungover for a game). It is a way that works for me and what I have found gives me the greatest focus. It is frustrating as hell sometimes and there are times that I just want to grab the bottle and drink it all away, but then, I tell myself that I’m being a fucking idiot.

Your shelf life as an athlete – and especially as a hockey player – is limited. Your career could end every time you step on the ice. The way I look at it, I want to enjoy every minute of the game and when – inevitably – the time comes to walk away from the game, I can look back and look at myself in the mirror that I did everything I could. I pushed myself above and beyond my limits and I left it all on the ice. No compromises.

I only wish that I would’ve realised all of this when I was younger, but I am happy that I HAVE realised it. This journey in hockey, fitness and self discovery has been truly amazing and long may it continue.

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The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a story to say that unhealthy eating is a key cause to obesity. I’m surprised that it has taken this long for doctors to come out and say it. The study dispels the fact that as long as you exercise you can eat whatever you want, which to be honest sounded like total bullshit when it was first announced. The main gripe I have with the study, or rather the way it was reported, was that the headlines lead you to believe that  just by eating healthy, you could get away with doing no exercise.

The eating habits of people in general are bad and are too marketing driven. It is every day that we are bombarded with different marketing messages from producers that proclaim that their product is the healthiest thing going, or some athlete peddling overpriced sugar water to us, with the promise that if you drink it, you will be a shit hot athlete.

Where I actually welcome the findings of this study, the scientific community has to take some blame in the way that we are eating, simply because we have been exposed to a number of ‘scientific’ reports to say that you should eat XYZ foods, whilst the studies are often sponsored by parties with a vested interest in their outcomes.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post where I was venting about the crap that we eat, I don’t claim to be a nutritionist, but I pay more attention to what I put in my body and try to avoid processed foods as much as I can. My main weakness is energy drinks, which in honesty are probably the worst things to hit the shelves of the supermarket and in my honest opinion should carry a health warning the same as cigarettes. (Then again all fast food should as well. I’m looking at you McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC etc).

The only thing I disagree with the study is that I think that healthy diet and exercise are core fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle. Just eating healthy doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to shed weight as fast as you can if you exercise AND eat healthy.

Eating healthy is sometimes challenging, well it isn’t if you’re willing to make small adjustments, but given the modern lifestyle, it is easier to go to the nearest store /café to get your lunch. Where I do want to support smaller, independent businesses and café owners, the fact of the matter is that the lunch options at supermarkets are inherently bad for you. You have sandwiches filled with sugar laden sauces and with a meal deal you get a fizzy sugary drink, a bag of crisps and/or a Mars/Snickers bar. If you work in a sedentary environment where the only physical exercise you get is the walk to the store, or worse yet, you drive. Do this for a full year, with all the vending machine snacks, the pounds are bound to start piling on. Then if you rely on your lunch from places like Costa or one of the other million Starbucks stores, your choices of a decent meal are pretty slim. There are advertised ‘healthy options’ such as salads, which on their own are fine, but add in the sauce that is included with the salad, and hey presto, you’ve got yourself another sugary meal. Also, the sandwich options often leave something to be desired for.

Like I said in my previous post about food, I’m not a nutritionist and everything I know about it is purely trial and error and finding what works for me. Due to the sport that I play, I try and eat a high protein and low carb diet during the off season and then increase the amount of carbs for game days during the season. From my personal view, I try and make sure I eat plenty of greens, lean meats and try and avoid the bad things in life, but I am only human and I do allow myself a treat every now and again.

I think what the food industry has done over the years is that it has lobbed us to eat wrong. Not a day goes by that we aren’t reading about this and that food being bad for you or increasing your risk of serious diseases. We’re being told on one hand that green tea is good for you and then on the other that it can increase your risk of cancer. What is often left out in the reports such as these is the amounts you would need to consume for it to have effect, but a headline of “FOOD X GIVES YOU CANCER” will drive more clicks to your website than a reasonable “Consuming too much of food X is bad for you” headline.

I feel that supermarkets are not in it to promote the healthy lifestyle as much as they should and still too often promote products that should not be part of a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, a lot of the ‘healthy’ range of products are something that I wouldn’t put in my mouth. If you look at it from a political point of view, it being the election and all, there’s even greater threat to the food supply if the powers that be push through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would potentially allow genetically modified foods to enter the supermarket shelves.

In either case, what I guess I’m trying to say is, eat healthy. Cut down on the sugary foods you have at home. Make sure you teach your kids about food and involve them in cooking. Do the exercise. Yes I know the gym isn’t for everyone, but you don’t have to necessarily go to the gym to be healthy as there are other ways to get fit.


One of Finland’s biggest hockey stars, Saku Koivu has called it a career today. Koivu, during his NHL career was a huge inspiration for me as a player and that I wanted to model myself after. I wanted to be a reliable two-way player, just like Koivu. The reason why Saku Koivu became such an inspiration to me was because we were both the same size and stature. Koivu proved that he could play like a big player, night in, night out, sometimes at a high cost, which lead to his injury history.

 

Koivu’s stature made him an extremely hard worker off the ice, which is how I wanted to model myself as a player. His dedication for the sport, despite battling difficult injuries or cancer, was immense and it was largely thanks to Koivu’s return from cancer that inspired me to take up the sport again, after I had fallen out of love with it. I remember thinking to myself: “If he comes back from cancer, what’s stopping me from coming back from a knee injury.”

 

As the Captain of the Canadiens, Koivu taught me a lot about leadership. Watching him in press scrums during the Canadiens’ woeful years, he conducted himself with class, despite carrying the hopes of an entire province on his back. Koivu always lead with example on the ice, whether it was for the Habs or for the Finnish national team, which I always aspired to do for my own team. It was leaving your heart out on to the ice after every game you played.

 

Where Koivu may not have reached the heights of the NHL’s scoring charts, he was a widely respected player across the entire league. One of those players that no-one had nothing but good things to say. Koivu was never a big fan of being in the spotlight, despite shouldering the C for the Canadiens for the better part of a decade.

 

There was a story about the Koivu brothers in the Finnish media which said that they absolutely hate losing and the reporter – whose name escapes me – said that Saku and Mikko are the types of players that hate losing so much, that the loss will eat at them for months and will fuel their desire to succeed. It is exactly what a great leader should be all about. Hating losing so much, you push yourself and your team to the limit so that you can win again. And again. And again.

 

Whilst Saku may not read this, I wanted to – in some way – acknowledge and thank him for the inspiration he provided me with for my own career, how you need to prepare as an athlete of a smaller stature and how to be a leader.

 

Kiitos, Saku


SuccessisbuiltFans always expect that their teams perform well – and ideally win every game – and fans have the absolute right to want success. There are expectations that teams and players need to meet, week in and week out. There are the expectations for the entire team from the fans and on an individual level, the expectations from the coaching staff.

 

Success is something that every player wants. For their team and for themselves. Otherwise, why play the game if you don’t want to succeed and not feel the elation of winning a game. Success is something that doesn’t magically happen on a game night. It is a long, drawn-out process throughout countless hours of work, sweat and pain. Success is built when there are no eyes on you. It happens at the gym, it happens on the roads, it happens on the bike. It even happens on the trainers table or with the physiotherapist. Success is built when you are on the ice with your team. It is built in bag skates, flow drills, set plays. It is built by countless and countless of repetitions of weights, drills, shots, jumps and miles pedalled on a bike.

 

Success is not something that is achieved overnight. Players can’t expect to be successful just by turning up to training and have the expectation that their effort on the ice will guarantee them success in the long run. The hockey season is a gruelling ride, with all its bumps and bruises and frustrations. What the fans see, is the culmination of all the work that has been taking place out of sight.

 

Success requires commitment. It requires hard work. It requires sacrifice. It requires discipline. It requires a goal, something that unifies a group of individuals to come together and work for that goal. It means leaving personal differences aside and playing for the logo on the front of your jersey and for the goal of becoming a champion.

 

The commitment fuels motivation and success, that success will player through a rock when it comes to crunch time. But all this underpinned by the work that each player does on and off the ice when the stands are empty and when no one is watching you.

 

The signs of success, are not seen on the ice in a 60 minute game. It is seen in the sweat dripping on to the gym floor and on to the ice.