Although he hails from Kalajoki, Finland, veteran forward Jussi Jokinen doesn’t mind that he’s being referred to as a “Swiss Army knife” during his second season with the Florida Panthers.
Jokinen, 32, has recorded six goals and 19 points in 30 games this season while having played all three forward positions at least once. A special teams guru, he also ranks first among Panther forwards in shorthanded minutes (67:22) and second in power-play minutes (75:23).
“He means a lot to our team,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “We talk about him every day. We take him for granted sometimes, but he can play any position and plays all special teams for us. It’s really important. We really like him. He’s scoring lots of points and contributing in all areas.”
Recently, FloridaPanthers.com’s Jameson Olive caught up with Jokinen to discuss a wide range of topics from his various roles within the lineup to how he spends his time off the ice in South Florida.
OLIVE: Your 19 points currently place you second on the team in scoring behind only Jaromir Jagr. How have you managed to stay so consistent despite never really getting settled into one particular role?
JOKINEN: I feel I’ve been pretty consistent this year and I’ve tried to do my part. I’ve played on pretty much every line because we had some injuries and guys were coming in and out of the lineup. It’s pretty nice when you find that same line and you’re playing together every night and building chemistry, but it’s been this way for most of my career and I’m fine with it. I think overall our penalty kill has been much better over the past couple of weeks and whoever has been playing there has been doing their job. It’s been going pretty well so far, so hopefully the team and myself can keep it going.
OLIVE: Aside from playing all three forward positions, you have also played a prominent role on both the power play and penalty kill this season. At what point did you start to have this do-it-all approach to hockey?
JOKINEN: Even growing up, I feel I would alternate from center to winger every other year or so. I don’t mind doing a little bit of everything and there are lots of players in the league that play on both PP and PK. I think it’s just fun to be counted on and get lots of ice time. It’s important to be accountable to your team and to your coach who gives you the ice time by doing all of the little things that help this team win games.
OLIVE: One of the biggest changes to the NHL this season has been the addition of 3-on-3 overtime. As someone who tends to see a lot of ice time in the extra frame, how have you enjoyed this controversial change?
JOKINEN: It’s been fun to play. I think it’s good whenever you can have more guys affect the result of the game. I feel 3-on-3 is pretty much the same as shootouts. Everybody is always standing and there is 2-on-1’s all the time. I’ve really been liking it.
OLIVE: It’s been over a year since you moved to South Florida. What has the transition been like for you and your family?
JOKINEN: It was a little unknown for me and my family when we made the long-term commitment to come and live here. We didn’t really know what we were getting into and how it would be like coming from Finland. It’s a little bit different there than it is here, but it’s been a really pleasant surprise. The people are really nice and obviously you can’t beat this weather. We’ve been really enjoying our time living here. It’s easy with the kids because you just throw a t-shirt and shorts on them before you go outside.
OLIVE: A lot of players tend to pick up new hobbies when they move to South Florida such as fishing or paddleboarding. How do you like to spend your free time off the ice?
JOKINEN: I spend most of my free time playing with my kids. We’ve been doing lots of swimming with them and they like to go in the water anytime they get a chance. It’s fun to goof around with the kids and go to the parks and stuff like that.
OLIVE: Are your children spoiled by the fact they get to spend the winter in South Florida and the summer in Finland?
JOKINEN: That’s all they know now [laughs]. It’s normal. They haven’t experienced a Finnish winter yet. When I played in Pittsburgh, my daughter was able to get one winter, but other than that, they just know it’s all about sun and being warm all the time. We’ll see what happens when my career is done and where we’re going to go.
OLIVE: Speaking of the future, you purchased a home in South Florida not long after you signed your current four-year deal with the Panthers. Do you expect to return to the area when your career is over?
JOKINEN: Yeah, for sure. Hopefully I have many more years left and I can finish my career here. That’s my goal. That’s what I’d like to do. After that, we have to decide whether to stay here or go back home to Finland. We’ll see what happens then.