Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta continued the Stanley Cup's tour of Europe on Wednesday when he brought the trophy to his hometown Jyväskylä, Finland.
Jyväskylä, a city of about 140,000 people, is home to JYP, a team in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. Maatta grew up playing for JYP teams in the Finnish junior leagues, and he made sure the region's youth hockey players were invited to a ceremony where they could have their picture taken with the Cup.
"Juniors were the first thing in my mind when I thought of the festivities," Maatta said. "The Stanley Cup is so far away from Finland. …I wanted to give all [of them] some concrete motivation that it is possible to win and play in the NHL, even if you are from the small city of Jyväskylä."
After the youth ceremony, Maatta hosted a public gathering at Aren Square. Despite rainy conditions, fans flocked to see the Cup.
Maatta is the third Finland-born defenseman to win the Cup, following Kimmo Timonen of the Chicago Blackhawks (2015) and Reijo Ruotsalainen of the Edmonton Oilers (1987, 1990).
"I don't think that my merits are even nearly equal with [Timonen and Ruotsalainen]," Maatta said. "It's awesome that I'm even mentioned in the same sentence with them."
Maatta had 19 points in 67 regular-season games and seven assists in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season. He missed three games against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Second Round because of an upper-body injury and was a healthy scratch for three games in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I wasn't satisfied in my play, not until the end of the [conference final]," Maatta said. "Then I started to feel that I can play hockey again. If the season had ended before the [Cup Final], I wouldn't have been satisfied."
Maatta returned to the lineup after defenseman Trevor Daley broke his ankle in Game 4 of the conference final, and Maatta played in the Penguins' last nine playoff games, including all six games of the Final against the San Jose Sharks. Maatta had three assists and a plus-2 rating against the Sharks.
"I got motivation in the last games from the feeling that I was able to play without thinking about it," Maatta said. "I didn't have to force the game, I just let it flow and my nerves weren't wrecked already before the games."
Maatta, who will turn 22 on Aug. 22, has developed an enhanced appreciation of the Penguins' championship as the summer has progressed. He and his teammates are motivated to become the first NHL team to repeat as champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
"The hunger to succeed is still growing," he said. "The feeling at the end of the season was awesome. We already talked with the [Penguins] that we want to win again next year."