The Blackhawks put what was potentially the finishing touch on their 2011-12 defensive corps when they agreed to terms with defenseman Sami Lepisto on a one-year deal last Friday. The 26-year-old blueliner split time between Phoenix and Columbus last season, registering 16 points (4G, 12A) in 70 games. chicagoblackhawks.com recently caught up with Lepisto, who is spending the offseason in his native Finland.
For our fans who haven’t watched you before, how would you describe your game?
I would say that my game is trying to make plays; I try to get the easy pass to the forwards and use my skating – which I think is pretty good – to my benefit. I like to join the rush once in a while, but I also know to let the forwards do their thing. That’s my game.
What made you choose Chicago?
I’ve always really liked the city, first of all; it’s always been one of my favorite road cities and the team is great. It’s a great organization and all I hear is great things from other players. The building is always sold out, and the fans are really passionate. I love hearing that national anthem before the game; I always get shivers. It was an easy choice.
Can you talk about the discussions behind the scenes? When did you first find out the Blackhawks were interested in your services?
There were a couple other teams involved, but then when I heard Chicago might be interested I got pretty excited. I just wanted to see where that would go. That was pretty much it; when I heard Chicago, I told my agent that was the place. I was happy.
Lepisto kisses the IIHF World Championship trophy after winning Gold with Finland in 2011 (Photo by Getty Images).
Which new teammate are you most looking forward to playing with?
The Blackhawks have really great defensemen in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but there are also great forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. It’s tough playing against all of them, so it’s nice to play on the same team for a while.
Have you discussed what number you’re going to wear here?Did you have a favorite player growing up?
Not yet, no. I’m not sure – I haven’t even looked into it yet. We’ll see what we can come up with.
I liked watching Kimmo Timonen and Teppo Numminen on the Finnish team. I didn’t watch the NHL that closely when I was growing up. But they were the guys I looked up to, and still do.
You just won Gold at the 2011 IIHF World Championships with the Finnish team. Is there anything you’re hoping to take away from that experience that may help your game over here?
I don’t know, really. That was the first time for a while that I played on an Olympic-sized rink, so it was a little different than playing in North America. The last time I went to the World Championships they were in Quebec and the Olympics were in Vancouver, so it was different. The style of play is so different. Of course, it was unbelievable to win, but I don’t know that it really helped my game on a smaller rink. You learn how to win, but at the same time it’s a bit of a different game.
I hear you’re getting your day with the World Championship trophy tomorrow… what are your plans for it?
Actually, I have it right now. I was supposed to get it tomorrow, but something changed and it came early. I’m going to have a little party with my friends tomorrow. Right now, I’m driving to my parents’ place to show it to my little brothers. I’m looking at it right now in my rear-view mirror; it’s pretty exciting. It’s nice to have the extra day, too.