By Dan Wood
|The Ducks touched down in Helsinki shortly past 9 a.m. local time Sunday morning.
Ducks Radio Analyst
HELSINKI – The huge electronic caricature of Teemu Selanne
adorning one side of Hartwall Areena provided a pretty good hint.
The arrival of the Ducks and the Finnish Flash, as well as countrymen Saku Koivu
and Toni Lydman
, is a very big deal in the capital city of hockey-loving Finland.
After touching down at Helsinki Airport shortly past 9 a.m. local time Sunday, the Ducks went straight to Hartwall Areena for an hour-long practice session to work out the kinks from more than 14 hours of airplane travel.
The real fun was set to begin a few hours later when Selanne took his teammates and Ducks staff members aboard his 75-foot boat, appropriately named the “Lucky 8,” for a sightseeing cruise around Helsinki and a visit to Sauna Island.
“I’m excited to show all my teammates about Helsinki and our home country,” Selanne said. “There’s a little island where there are four smoke saunas. We’re going to go there and try the saunas – jump in the ocean, go back to the saunas, jump in the ocean.
“The boys are excited. We asked the coaches, but they had something else planned.”
|“I’m excited to show all my teammates about Helsinki and our home country,” Selanne said. “There’s a little island where there are four smoke saunas. We’re going to go there and try the saunas – jump in the ocean, go back to the saunas, jump in the ocean." |
Bright sunshine and temperatures near 50 degrees greeted the Ducks in Helsinki, though it cooled down as the day progressed. Fall is definitely in the air, but that didn’t stop an enthusiastic group of hockey players eager to experience a new land.
“We’ll see what our host with the most has planned for us,” right wing George Parros
said. “We have to be ready for that, for sure.”
Selanne also prepared a Helsinki tip sheet, complete with restaurant suggestions, for his teammates not named Koivu or Lydman.
“I think those guys are pretty pumped,” defenseman Sheldon Brookbank
said. “I know I would be if we were playing in my homeland, my province (Saskatchewan) or whatever. Yeah, they’re definitely going to be proud and they’re going to show us the way around.”
Even the relatively short but crisp practice session was eventful, taking place on a sheet of ice adjacent to Hartwall Areena. The rink is built into rock, giving it what Brookbank called “a little bit of a dungeon feel.
“That was interesting. Yeah, it was kind of cool. It’s an interesting concept.”
The main venue, with its ice still being adjusted to NHL size and painting of the markings ongoing, is also something special.
“This is a great building, with a lot of nice little details,” Selanne said. “The owner’s suite has a sauna. You can watch the hockey game in the sauna – a big window you can watch the hockey. I’ve been in there.”
|The Ducks had a short practice around midnight Anaheim time, on a sheet of ice adjacent to Hartwall Areena. The rink is built into rock, giving it what Brookbank called “a little bit of a dungeon feel. |
With the Ducks set to face Jokerit, Selanne’s former Finnish team, in a Tuesday exhibition before opening the NHL regular season Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, of course there is also work to be done.
That’s where the practice, at about midnight Anaheim time, came in.
“We wanted to make sure that we could get their bodies acclimated to this time as quickly as possible,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “Obviously, flying all day yesterday and then all night to get here, it is an adjustment for the players’ bodies. Get them on the ice and feeling good – that was the main concern for today.”
The mission appeared to be accomplished.
“I feel pretty good,” Parros said. “I was a little bit slow out there, I think, but that’s to be expected after any flight, whether it’s an hour and a half, or 12. But sleep deprivation-wise, I’m feeling pretty good right now. I feel like I might be on local time. I don’t know. I could hit that wall, but at the moment, I feel OK.”