I had the opportunity to bring former Hamilton Bulldog and Montreal Canadien Joonas Nättinen on as a guest on ‘PuckDrop’, continuing the Finnish theme this week.
Joonas spent three years with the Hamilton Bulldogs and then another year with Modo in the SHL before returning to Finland and Liiga. While coaches and teams in Liiga ask him for his advise about former AHL players, Nättinen speaks about Sylvain Lefebvre and mentions that "He was a good coach. He was very strict, but pretty much all North American coaches are strict." He would not point fingers to the coach as "he [the coach] had a lot to offer his players".
When comparing the different leagues Nättinen states that “The hockey in the AHL is not pretty for the eye. It’s a lot of winning zones, forechecking… as a European player, I don’t really like the hockey too much. It’s a lot of grinding, but, in Swedish league there’s a lot of room, and it’s a more skilled game."
Joonas Nättinen’s hockey mind is on display all through the interview, and it is easy to understand the calls from coaches and management to hear what he says about players in his former leagues. He also brings his own thoughts on what the biggest difference is in team building, “In the AHL you get more strict roles within your team. In Europe, all of the teams are trying to create four equally strong lines, and the most successful teams want to play the same hockey with four lines.”
Still he sees that he benefited from the time in North America, as he acknowledges that “I grew as a person a lot, outside of hockey. Hockey-wise it was different hockey. I got more variations to my game. I learned about North American north-south hockey, physical hockey, and you can still see those dimensions in my game right now.”
He has some nice things to say about the new Finnish addition to the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge Artturi Lehkonen whom he played with on the Finnish national team, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to get that quote!