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PODCAST: Sami Vatanen Happy to be Back with Devils

The 29-year-old defender joins Matt and Amanda fresh off his first game of the season

by Amanda Stein amandacstein /

Sami Vatanen very well knows that hockey is a business. 

And he's thrilled that the business part of hockey has brought him back to New Jersey. 

Vatanen was traded at the 2020 Trade Deadline to Carolina, and he played with the team throughout their time in the summer playoff bubble. And months later, he was right back where he started, with the New Jersey Devils. 

Vatanen is this week's guest on the Speak of the Devils Podcast, presented by RWJ Barnabas Health, and joins Matt Loughlin and Amanda Stein to discuss his return to New Jersey. 

"There's some business decision in this league, you know, you get traded and all that kind of stuff, but you know, you should never close your doors to anywhere," Vatanen shared, "you just listen, to what you can get from wherever, and I was luckily at talk with Fitzy a little bit in the end of it and got a good offer from here."

It was an easy decision for Vatanen, who had been with New Jersey since November of 2017, when he was traded to the Devils from the Anaheim Ducks. He fit right into the Devils room, and it was a place he wanted to return to. 

"I really enjoyed my time here," he said of his decision to return, "You know, we had a good group of guys here. And I saw they played really good hockey [at the] beginning of this season. And I think we were in the end of the last year, we played really good hockey there too. So, I was very excited when I got a call, that I have a job to come back."

While there are some familiar faces to Vatanen, there are a couple of new ones too. Especially on the blueline, with the emergence of Ty Smith. Smith, who is on the smaller size, much like Sami, has impressed the veteran. 

"Just watching him play, it's hard to remember that he's only 20 years old," he said of his first impressions of Smith. "I was very impressed, impressed with his game and you know, he came right to the lineup and you know, he earned his spot right away. And it's, it's fun to watch when the younger guy comes and how ready he is to play the hockey right now."

Vatanen is usually a man of few words, but he joined Loughlin and Stein for a 20 minute conversation. In the podcast you'll find out what Sami has been binge-watching lately, and which member of the Devils he thinks would give him a run for his money on the golf course. Sami, of course, is very big on golf, sharing he's spent time during quarantine at his at-home golf simulator. 

On the community podcast this week, former professional player, Cassandra Vilgrain, joins Catherine Bogart. Although her father, former Devil Claude Vilgrain, was an accomplished professional player, it was the 2002 Canadian Women's Olympic Hockey team that inspired Cassandra to play the sport.

"It was the 2002 Olympics and basically I saw it and I saw these women playing and I was like, I had no idea that this was a possibility. I went to my dad and I was like I need to play. And so it was that year in 2002 that I enrolled into hockey."

Vilgrain went on to playing college hockey in both the U.S. and Canada before spending a year abroad playing professionally in Sweden. To stay connected to the game, Vilgrain continues to give back and tell her story in hopes of inspiring others to play. 

"When you're growing up everything that you watch: movies, television shows, books you read, things that are predominantly mainstream, that's what starts to inspire kids," said Vilgrain. "When you start seeing people that look like you in positions that you thought were never even possible for you…then your journey starts to shift. Then you see something that's attainable for you."

"I enjoy going back to the programs that I was at before and telling my story and talking about my experience and just being who I am, and being a role model. And showing that if you look like me, if you've had my journey, then you have all the opportunities in the world to go far, whether it's in hockey or beyond."

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