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Vatanen Gets Four More Years with 'My Favorite Team Since I Was 5 Years Old'

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

By Adam Brady | AnaheimDucks.com


Two decades ago when the first Mighty Ducks movie came out, it clearly resonated with fans across the country. Thousands of miles away from Hollywood, in a little town in central Finland, the film and its sequels also captured the attention of a five-year-old hockey player named Sami Vatanen.

“The Ducks have been my favorite team since I was 5 years old," Vatanen says. "And it all started with the Mighty Ducks movies. I was watching those a lot when I was a kid, and from there the Ducks started being my favorite.” (Incidentally, the original was called Champions in Europe, and later when it was released on DVD it became The Mighty Ducks Are the Champions.)

Of course, having his country’s hero, Teemu Selanne, become a franchise icon helped as well. “Teemu played there and everybody here followed him,” Vatanen says. “I’ve just always loved the team and now I love the place, the weather and everything. It was a dream come true when they drafted me, and now I’ve had a chance to be there four or five years. Now I’ll be there four more. It’s a very nice feeling.”

“It’s always been my dream to play in Anaheim and I wanted to stay there. I can see they really wanted me there, so that helps a lot with negotiations and things like that. It’s a big thing that they trust me there, and I feel like I have a chance to help the team. It’s just really exciting, and I’m happy it’s all done.”

Indeed, Vatanen’s future in Anaheim is set in stone as of this morning, when the team announced a four-year contract extension that runs through the 2019-20 season. The signing comes on the heels of Vatanen’s best campaign among his three full seasons in a Ducks uniform, in which he set career highs in points (38) and assists (29). He also scored nine goals with a deceptively hard shot for the slight 5-10, 183-pounder.

Vatanen is spending most of his offseason in Tampere, Finland, but was able to speak to Ducks Season Ticket Holders via FaceTime at the team’s annual Select-a-Seat event this afternoon. Later he talked to media via ove rthe phone, and when asked by one reporter how he was doing, he responded, “I’m good, I’m good. Really good, actually.”

The 25-year-old Vatanen was among a collection of young free agents the Ducks are looking to sign, and both he and the Anaheim front office were pleased to get a deal done relatively quickly. “I’m really happy they gave me the opportunity and I can see they trust me there,” Vatanen said. “I really believe we have a good team there, and we have a chance to do something great. That drives me even more to work hard this summer and be ready for next season.

“It’s always been my dream to play in Anaheim and I wanted to stay there. I can see they really wanted me there, so that helps a lot with negotiations and things like that. It’s a big thing that they trust me there, and I feel like I have a chance to help the team. It’s just really exciting, and I’m happy it’s all done.”

Among his plans this summer is getting ready for the upcoming World Cup in mid-September in Toronto, where he will once again represent his native Finland (he’s played in an Olympics and numerous other international tournaments). The primary focus, however, is preparing for next season in Anaheim.

“My plan every year is just to get better, and I think I’ve been doing that every season since I came here,” Vatanen said. “I believe I can be better next year and the next year and the next year. That’s the main thing. I don’t have expectations for All-Star Games or points or whatever. If I can help the team win, then I’m happy.”

Vatanen will take a brief respite from his workouts to celebrate this new contract, starting tomorrow when he has some friends coming into town. “I think we’re gonna have a couple glasses of wine,” he said with a chuckle, “and enjoy it.”

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