|Boston Bruins' Petteri Nokelainen, of Finland, is congratulated by his team after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders during the second period of their NHL hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Ed Betz) |
Boston Bruins Forward Petteri Nokelainen might be home in Finland enjoying his time off, but he couldn’t be happier to have his contract negotiations finished back in Boston. In fact, Nokelainen’s first priority this summer was making sure he was coming back to New England in September.
“I am really excited about being back with the Bruins,” said the centerman. “I was happy when I got traded to Boston last year and didn’t have any problems with coming back.
“So, I was really happy when they offered me a new contract.”
Originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Nokelainen has spent the past three seasons jumping around between the AHL and the big league. This coming season, he hopes to become more of a staple in Boston though, and can’t imagine a better place to play.
“It was really nice (coming to Boston),” he said cheerfully. “We had a lot of young guys -- a really good group of players. The atmosphere was awesome. I really look forward to coming back, having that same atmosphere again and I hope that we can do even better than last year.
“It was so easy coming to Boston,” continued Nokelainen. “Where is there a better sports town than Boston? I can’t think of one.
“Everyone is watching sports there and it is a really nice place to play.”
Although “Nokie” is happy to be coming back to the Hub, he is also taking full advantage of his summer time off. After a vacation in Mexico with Providence teammate, Tuukka Rask
, Nokelainen has spent the rest of the past two months at home in Finland.
“I have been working out the last three or four weeks,” he starts, “but I am doing the things that I can’t do during the year.
“I have been playing a lot of tennis and golf, seeing my friends and family and I have been going to my summer place a little bit.
“I just want to see my friends, chat with them and try to catch back up with those times that I lose during the winter,” he said.
Like most hockey players, Nokelainen has spent a lot of his time this summer on the links. However, unlike some of his teammates he is just learning the game.
When asked how it was going, he replied, “It is not the easiest game, but I think it is coming along pretty well.
“It is not too far away from the slap shot motion, so it should be a little bit easier for hockey players.”
Teammate and scratch golfer, Marc Savard
, gave him some encouragement, though.
“He actually told me that he started when he was 20, so there is hope,” said the 22-year-old, with a big laugh. “But (Savard) is great, I don’t think I am going to catch up to him.
“I am just not that passionate about it.”
What he is very passionate about is hockey.
“I have been playing hockey (with passion) my whole life and I think that’s the way it should be played,” he said. “I think you should have some emotion when you are playing and I try to find that every time I go on the ice.
“It is easy because I love what I am doing right now and I love playing hockey.
“It doesn’t even feel like I job,” he added. “It’s fun every time I play and I think that is the biggest thing.”
Job or no, Petteri has big vocational plans for next season. He is excited about the signing of free agent Michael Ryder believing he will be a guy who can score 30 or more goals, but he also hopes to contribute more, too.
“I definitely want to get a bigger role than I had last year on the team,” explained Nokelainen. “And I want to try and get those goals and point totals up a little bit, too.
“There are a lot of things I want to do, but the big thing is just to get better at all areas of the game.
“That is the biggest thing, just to get better as a hockey player all the time and that is what I try to do,” he said.
Nokelainen certainly can’t lose with that attitude, and neither can the Bruins.