I never doubted last summer that I wanted to come back and play one more year. The year before, it was more of a question mark. But last season we had a good team and it was so much fun. I wanted to have a few weeks after the season to make sure I felt the same way, and I definitely did. Having Saku come here was a great bonus, but even before that I knew I would come back.
I’ve always said I’d like to play as long as I feel like I can have fun and I can play well. So far, so good.
I’m 39 now, but when I’m in a game, I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 20. I really think my speed is pretty much the same. I enjoy the game just as much. The one thing I think is different is recovery time. You can go partying, or you can play and practice hockey. You have to be so smart and think about every move, make sure you get enough rest, enough fluids, the right food. You’ve got to stretch, you’ve got to look after yourself. When you’re 20, that stuff doesn’t matter as much.
Even when times are tough, or the team isn’t winning, I’m still having fun. That starts with having great friends here.
People say I’m always in a good mood, which isn’t necessarily true, but I am most of the time. The way I was raised, having a positive attitude about life is huge. It creates so much success and happy days. Even when things go bad, you have to try and find the thing that makes you happy. I think that has helped me so much over the years.
My twin brother Paavo used to play goalie against me when we were growing up. I always talk about how I took his confidence back then. He thought he was terrible because I always scored on him. Then I came over here and I scored 76 goals my rookie year and he said, “I guess I wasn’t that bad. You score on everybody. I was stupid to retire.” He actually won eight Finnish championships as a field hockey goalie. He has more championships than I do, which he always reminds me about. He’s a high school woodshop teacher now and is really good with his hands. I’ve got pretty good hands, but not that good.
One of the more fun things I did before I became an NHL player was help teachkindergarten in Finland. When I was done in my army service, most of my teammates had jobs or were studying. We didn’t practice until 5 p.m., so I had a whole day to kill. I wanted to do something fun and my mom was in charge of 25 different kindergarten classes all over the city. I helped out for four hours a day, for two years, starting when I was 18. I would supervise all the games and the activities, helping out another teacher who did the classroom work. It was awesome, way more fun than I thought it would be.
I’ve scored almost 600 goals, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I think it would probably be that overtime goal in Game 5 in Detroit during the 2007 playoffs. I think that was a turning point in that whole series. That was when I said, “Now we have a chance.” We all knew that if we could get by Detroit, the Final would be relatively easy. And that’s exactly what happened.
I still remember the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, of being out on that ice with my teammates and my family. It was just so many years of hard work finally paying off. It was by far the best day in my life as a hockey player. I had had that dream forever. When you finally reach it, it’s just so incredible. I remember feeling just so empty, like I had given everything I had. I remember when the Rangers won the Cup in 1994, they showed a fan in the stands with a sign that said, Now I Can Die in Peace. I always thought about that, and I kind of felt that way that night.
Some of our younger guys like Getzlaf and Perry have almost been spoiled by how good the team has been early in their careers. They almost don’t know how hard it really is to win in this league. When you win the Stanley Cup in your first, second or third year, it gives kind of a different picture of this league. But when you’re on a team with no chance to win, it’s really tough to play. The life can be quite miserable in this league when you don’t win. Sometimes you have to remind those guys that nothing is going to come
automatically and you have to earn every single thing you get in this league.
I don’t think you can describe the feeling of scoring a goal. It’s still a very special feeling. I’ve always enjoyed it and you can never get enough of it. But I think I’ve changed over the years. When I was younger, when I scored one goal, I really wanted to have a second one. And when I had two, I knew I would get three. I was so hungry and ready to do whatever to get one more. These days, it almost makes me feel a little greedy. If
we’re leading 3-0 and I have a goal or two, I almost feel embarrassed to try and get the hat trick. The mindset has changed. When you’re young, you have so many more individual goals and standards. When you get older, you just want to win, and you play things a little smarter, a little more team-oriented. Part 2 will be featured in the next issue of Ducks Digest and on AnaheimDucks.com in January