For many, there also is a sense of sadness linked to the game because it will be the first regular-season game for the Coyotes on home ice since the death of longtime massage therapist Jukka Nieminen in June.
To honor Nieminen, the players will wear a circular sticker on their helmets that feature the initials JN. The sticker will remain on their helmets for the entire 2010-11 season.
“We all know how important Jukka was to all of us so we just wanted to do something to remember him and acknowledge him,” said captain Shane Doan
, who met Nieminen when Doan broke into the NHL in 1995. “You always want to do more but this is something that hopefully everyone will notice and appreciate.”
Doan misses his Finnish friend very much.
“Going in his room (inside the arena) for the first time was different because it’s always been the Finnish Consulate in there,” Doan said with a smile. “Now, you miss him whenever you walk in there, and you miss him whenever you need something because he was so good at knowing where something was and knowing what was going on, and that’s funny because he never asked anyone for anything.”
1970 - 2010
Nieminen, who passed away the day before he was supposed to be married, is survived by two young daughters – Alexandra and Caroline. The fund listed below has been established to help provide for their future education:
Jukka Nieminen Memorial Fund
c/o Stan Wilson
Phoenix Coyotes Hockey Club
6751 N. Sunset Blvd., Suite 200
Glendale, AZ 85305
“Jukka was such a big personality,” Doan said. “I always look for his big, goofy head to come around the corner and say something funny, and I really miss him trying to pull a prank on somebody. We all definitely miss that, and we miss him smiling and laughing and just being around us.”