Friday, 26 February 2010

For this season I am giving up:

If you’re religious, you know that lent is a time for giving up. Where I’m not religious, I thought that to improve my intensity for the up and coming season, I’ll give something up as well.

During the year when I suffered my knee injury and was cleared to play, I scored points in every single game, all the way to the finals. Back in those days, I was a vegetarian and I didn’t drink. To make sure that I squeeze every last bit of performance out of my body, I have decided to give up alcohol for the duration of the summer cup.

Providing that I achieve my ultimate goal, I will carry the pledge through to that season as well. So after 5th of March I shall not be consuming any alcohol for the duration of the season.

What is my motive for this? For those of you who don’t know I didn’t drink for 2 years due because I didn’t like the taste of it, or the hangovers. Where I don’t drink that much now days, I find that when I do, it takes me a lot longer to recover, which hinders my training and effectively playing as all our games are over the weekend. Further to this I hope that the approach will help me gain that extra bit of jump on the ice and allow for more adrenaline to course through my veins in games.

If I am to play this game for the maximum amount of time, I need to make sure that I do something that I have ignored in the past and take care of my body and listen to its requirements, rather than go hell for leather and try to push through serious injuries.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Training Update

So the months and weeks are counting down to what should be an interesting cup competition. Few teams have pulled out and a couple of teams have lost core players so it will be interesting to see how it will all pan out.

As I tick off another month from my season preparation, I thought it would be a good time to review where I am in terms of fitness and overall feel, which is something I have not done for a while.

This month I have worked on strength training with a programme that consists of the following exercises:

Day 1:
Bench press 4 sets
Incline bench press 4 sets
Seated Military press 4 sets
Good mornings 4 sets
Close Grip Pull downs 4 sets
Leg curls 5 sets

Day 2:
Squats 5 sets
Deadlift 5 sets
Reverse curl 5 sets
Hammer Curls 4 sets
Tricep Kickback 4 sets
Preacher curls 4 sets

Where I find Day 2 harder, it is also more enjoyable as it gets a good sweat going.

My body weight had gone up and I have managed to gain all of the bulk that I lost during the appendectomy and the inactivity it caused.

On the ice I feel faster and stronger, though I’m being overly cautious as I’m breaking in new skates and I haven’t quite gotten used to them yet.

Performance wise, I feel faster and I think one area that has improved more than most is that I am difficult to move away from a screen in front of the goal. All in all I am positive about my progress.

Things to work on:

Need to start speed, agility and quickness (SAQ) exercises and dedicate more time over the weekends to training. Also I need to get on the bike more and make sure I do some low impact cardio work to make sure I further improve my stamina.


One of my major concerns for reaching my goals has been that I have no idea whether I am good enough to make it. I have no clear bench mark that I can measure myself against and compare, whether I am in a position where I can compete with the players that play at higher levels. One thing that I always strive on is criticism and feedback and it has always helped me to push on with work life.

Whatever criticism or feedback I’ve received, I’ve used it as fuel to succeed. This way of thinking has skyrocketed my work career and helped me to excel in situations that I thought were beyond me. The same applies to hockey. When my coach in the Dutch league told me I wasn’t hitting enough, the next few weeks I worked on my angles and timing my hits right to make sure that I didn’t play myself out of the situation.

There are countless of other examples that I can think of where the coaches have told me something and I’ve worked on it to improve myself. When I got back to the game of hockey, I did it through inline hockey. When I started I had been out of the game for over two years and I was appalling in my first season as I struggled to make the wheels do what the normal ice skate did. I spent my first off season skating, often alone, in the university’s sports hall, practicing turns and pivots and making sure that I was able to manoeuvre on the skates. The next season, I went to score points in 24 consecutive games, just from being able to skate and move properly.

Now that I’m back on the ice, I know that my speed, shot and physical play are up to scratch, but I’m not sure of what my coaches expect of me and what role they want me to play. In the Dutch league I was playing a defensive forward role, basically being used in situations when we had to keep the puck out of our net and zone. With my new found scoring touch, I have been playing a more offensive game, which I enjoy. But at the same time, I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to be a goal scorer, a play maker or a power forward. I have been combining the elements of all three, but due to lack of feedback I’m not sure if I’m playing the systems right.

That’s no criticism of our coach, in fact I have nothing but respect for him as he takes numerous hours of his time to make sure we have a team to play for. It’s just my personal preference to hear feed back and learn where I’m going wrong when on the ice and also to hear from him what he sees my role in the team, whether it is play making or scoring.

Personally I see myself as a playmaking forward, as I tend to have a good vision of the ice in the offensive zone. I like to work out of the corner or from behind the net and find the rushing guys to pass to. Sure I like nothing better than scoring goals but I also need to play to my strengths.

I’m not saying that I want to be grouped as a passer and a set up man, because I do have the nose for the net. My goals are clear and I am sure that I will be able to translate into multiple points and wins for the team.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Vancouver 2010: State of Finland's ice hockey and it's future

This blog post goes off the normal beat of this blog and will look at the state of Finnish hockey at the moment. Where normal posts would focus on my own development, this post will actually pose opinion and attempt at being a hockey pundit:

As I watched Finland square off against Belarus the other night, I was both happy and a little bit frustrated. Perhaps most of the frustration came with dealing with a broadband connection that provides .5Mbps connection and makes watching live sports nearly impossible. However, the main part of the frustration was due to the state of Finland’s hockey in general.

The team we are fielding in Vancouver 2010, is by all accounts one of the strongest we could muster together. I see the Finnish team as an old battle ship, trust worthy, but it has seen its brightest days. Our key players everyone talks about and knows in the wider hockey community are Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jere Lehtinen. Though I have to say that there are youngish players there as well, mainly in Mikko Koivu, Tuomo Ruutu and Valtteri Filppula.

Additionally, Finland displayed a dismal performance in the U-20 Championships during Christmas. Coming 5th in the tournament behind Swizerland is not something to be proud of. I mean the Swiss, c’mon.

The state of the team is such, that compared with many teams, mainly US and Canada, we have no young talent what so ever. We have no players under 25 on our roster, where both US, Canada and even Russia have such players. We have no exciting stars. The old guard of Selanne and co. have seen their glory days and where Filppula and younger Koivu are great players, they will never be classed as NHL super stars. And it pains me to say that, as I am a huge fan of Mikko Koivu.

The problem however is not with these players, but I see it as a deep rooted problem of Finnish athleticism. Our systems are hopelessly out of date and our junior development is aimed at developing players who do their work in the corners and have no Alex Ovechkin like skills.

The other problem I can see in the current Finnish hockey is the policy of ‘everyone plays’, which has ultimately hampered development of truly great players. Now we struggle with scoring and we are always thinking pass first, rather than shoot. Thankfully, the new head coach Jukka Jalonen has a different take on this and is actually encouraging people to take more shots. I can’t fault Jalonen at all. He coached my hometown team, HPK, into the Finnish championships for the first time and is to all intents and purposes a great coach and brings a fresh style of thinking to the national team.

After that pseudo intelligent look into the problems, let’s focus on the team that we have out there.

There was a lot of talk about why Jussi Jokinen was left out of the team, but I can sort of see why. He has only started to play after the decisions were made and probably it was the right one to make, as the decision to leave him out has saved him from an abysmal season.

Upfront the Finnish team looks strong, well maybe not for Ville Peltonen and Jarkko Immonen. With all due respect to Peltonen, who has had a stellar career, I think we could’ve substituted him for a younger player, perhaps some one like Jokinen or even a wild card of Mikael Granlund (projected first round pick in the 2010 draft) from the Finnish league. I’m not a fan of Jarkko Immonen at all. He dominated the SM-Liiga last year and this year in the tougher KHL he has done nothing spectacular.

Our defence is questionable. We have super defensive players in Kimmo Timonen, Toni Lydman and Sami Salo (providing he is healthy), but after that who do we have. Joni Pitkanen? Well yes he is a great player and logs big minutes for Carolina, but he tends to play only when he is interested in playing after him, I’m struggling to think who the rest of the D players are. Washed up NHL players who couldn’t hack it there and now play the KHL. Oh we’ve got Janne Niskala from the Swedish leagues there too as a power play specialist. Doubtful, that with that defence we will pull off a similar surprise as in Turin.

In net we are strong, perhaps the strongest in the whole tournament right behind Canada. Kiprusoff, Backstrom and Niittymaki are all elite goalies in the NHL. This is the most puzzling thing about Finnish hockey. I can name a load of goalies from the Finnish leagues who are great and are working toward a brilliant professional career in the NHL, but I can’t for the life of me think of any prospects from the outfield players.

Despite all of this, I think Finland will stand a chance. Our team is not super-star studded like those of Canada and Russia and I think our coaching staff has a good grasp of the addressing the problems that have traditionally plagued Finnish hockey. Jukka Jalonen coached HPK to Finnish Championships in 2006, Risto Dufva coached JYP Jyvaskyla to Finnish Champioship in 2009 and Timo Lehkonen was Jalonen’s number two in HPK’s run to the championship.

However good of a job the coaching staff and players are able to pull off, Finnish Ice Hockey Association needs to address the junior development of hockey players. The leadership from the coaches to the captains will surely be one of Finland’s strengths and who knows, maybe we will capture a medal, I just don’t think we will be able to make the Turin 2006 silver any brighter this year. After these Olympics, I am not holding my breath that Finland will produce brilliant results in the World Championship competitions, or Olympics for that matter, for a number of years

Desperation plays

Desperation can be a great ally. I find that I accomplish the best results when under increased pressure or everything has to be done in the desperation mode. Whether a big game is on the line or if you’re fighting for a win in overtime, or you need to get something urgent finished off at work.

I think the best example I can give of desperation is my teams’ play in the summer cup when we went to the playoffs to face Bristol Warriors. The whole team was a bit nervous to begin with and where we were trading goals left right and centre, Bristol managed to get away. In the third period though, we pulled the game back with what can only be described as desperation. Every guy on the team was doing their jobs, laying their body down infront of the puck, taking and giving hits and most importantly scoring goals. Personally I had two in the game, which helped us greatly, but it wasn’t enough.

I’ve played in big games and have had the privilege to play and be coached by people who have experience from big games and events. It has helped me calm down for those important games and almost view them as ‘any other games’. Sure it’s not quite like the game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals and no one would ever say that it’s just another game, because that whole event is something extra special.

However, with all the success that I have experienced, comes at a greater price. I think I have lost and been disappointed more times than I have won something in my career. For many, the constant disappointments can result in the end of their careers, but for me and many others as well, it is a source for inspiration and drive. Ultimately it the triumphs that you will remember forever, rather than the losses.

But despite all that I have lost in the game of hockey and all that I am yet to achieve, there is something that drives me on. Part of it is desperation and the other part is hope. I am desperate to win and will do anything to get there and fight to make things happen for the team. I am hoping that my performances will drive me to a new height and that I will be able to achieve greatness once more.

When all else seems gone and no matter what adversities you face, you need desperation and hope (among other things) to push through. No matter how bleak it all seems, but Hope always dies last.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


• Why do I play hockey?
I play hockey, because it is the ultimate team sport. It combines skill, strength, speed and it is aggressive. When I’m on the ice, it is one of the happiest places on the earth. I love the rush of adrenaline that every shift creates and I love the feeling of having worked till you have nothing left in the tank and go beyond that.

• What Do I want to achieve?
I want to achieve nothing but victories. I want to contribute every shift. Most of all I want to achieve my ultimate goal, to play as a pro.

• Do I have a long term hockey goal or a career goal?
I sort of answered it above, I want to play as a pro and carry on playing to the best of my ability till the end of my career.

• What is my goal for the season?
Help the team to reach the playoffs and fight for a championship. Individually I want to have a good year and score in excess of 30 points and secure a place with a professional or semi professional team.