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Kulikov recalls first NHL game

Kulikov: "I'm going back to the rink where I played my first game."

by Jamie Thomas @JamieThomasTV / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG MB - With another practice in the books, the Winnipeg Jets have answered pretty much every question surrounding the Finland trip. However, it looks like there is at least one more story to tell.

Defenceman Dmitry Kulikov was in the lineup last Thursday against the Florida Panthers at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. No big deal, right? But here's the interesting part - Kulivov made his NHL debut nine years ago in the exact same rink as a member of the aforementioned Panthers.

"I was very aware," said Kulikov when asked if he realized if he was returning to where he started in the NHL. "I don't know if it brought up any feelings like 'Oh my God I played my first game there' it wasn't anything like that. It was just "I'm going back to the rink where I played my first game that I remember nothing about."

Wait a second, he doesn't remember anything about his first NHL game? Usually that is a memory that will last a lifetime. That being said, there is a good reason for Kulikov not recalling this moment, though. Kulikov recalls an unusual training camp for the Panthers in the fall of '09.

"We were on a month and a half road trip that took us from Florida and we played a couple of (exhibition) games in the States and then went up to Canada, like Nova Scotia and played exhibition games there," said Kulikov. 

"Then we went to Finland for ten days or so. It was about a month and a half of being on the road, switching hotels and different rooms. You can imagine at (18 years old) going through your first training camp you can lose track of time on top of not knowing where you are."

Even though Kulikov doesn't remember playing 16:40 in that game against the Chicago Blackhawks, some memories did come back to him when he arrived along with the Jets just last week.

"When I walked into the (Hartwall) arena it was like 'Yeah, I remember this place. I've played here before'," said Kulikov. "The locker room (the Jets were in) was exactly the same. I don't think they've changed anything there in nine years which is unusual, I guess."

There was even a poster on the wall from when the Panthers and Blackhawks played those two games in the hallways outside of the Jets' locker room.

"I saw my signature on that poster from 2009," said Kulikov. "That's crazy."

Being Russian, Kulikov is a big believer in having the NHL playing regular season contests in Europe.

"You can imagine how many kids it inspires seeing NHL players play in front of your eyes," said Kulikov. "For me as a kid growing up in Russia, I would love that if the NHL would played all over the world."

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