-- This trip to Finland will be a celebration of the three native players who play for the Anaheim Ducks
, but they aren't alone in their heritage.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
also has roots in this Scandinavian country to the northwest of the Baltic Sea.
"My grandparents were from Finland," Carlyle said. "They were born and raised in Finland and then they moved to Canada. My grandfather was a carpenter and they moved to Sudbury, Ontario area."
When the Ducks got off to a slow start last season, media members and disgruntled fans questioned whether Carlyle's job was in jeopardy, but general manager Bob Murray
's confidence was rewarded as the Ducks made the playoffs despite losing starting goaltender Jonas Hiller
for the stretch run.
It was a coaching performance that could have been worthy of a Jack Adams
award nomination, but there is no question Carlyle is one of the top bench bosses in the League. His 266 wins are by far the most in franchise history, and Carlyle's led the Ducks to the playoffs in five of his six seasons -- not to mention a Stanley Cup victory in 2007.
The Western Conference was the tougher of the two last season, and major additions in Los Angeles, San Jose and Columbus aren't going to make it any easier, but with a healthy Hiller and the return of Teemu Selanne
for another season the Ducks should battle San Jose and Los Angeles for Pacific Division supremacy.
"We feel that we have a hockey club here that can challenge for a playoff position," Carlyle said. "Once you get in, it is wide open."
Before that, the Ducks will spend the week here in Scandinavia, playing an exhibition game and two regular-season contests while also enjoying some of the benefits of an NHL-sponsored European vacation.
"For us as a coaching staff, it gives you an opportunity to have the team together, a little bit of team bonding and team building," Carlyle said. "We'll spend the week together, and there will be a few events that the team participates in. They're will be a team dinner. We can practice as a group right here. We don't have to change facilities.
"For our players we think it is a new experience, and we're here representing the NHL. Any chance you have as a partner of the NHL to spread your wings and be involved on an international basis helps sell the game to the international community with the NHL brand, I think you have to take it and take it very, very seriously. We have to put our best foot forward, not only for the NHL but for the Anaheim Ducks
organization and we're very, very happy to do that."
One big adjustment for the Ducks this week will be the weather. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Helsinki, but the temperature isn't expected to reach 60 degrees all week while the lows are likely to be in the low-to-mid 40s.
Carlyle was one member of the Ducks who wasn't complaining.
"Hopefully the weather stays nice," he said. "Being from California, all we ever see is sun and heat, and being from Northern Ontario, this is very close to where I lived and grew up in Sudbury. Deep lakes, pine forests -- it is fall, and that is a little bit of a change for us."