The newest member of the San Jose Sharks, Ville Nieminen, made his first visit to the Shark Tank since the 2003-04 Western Conference Semifinals Thursday morning in the team’s pre-game skate.
Nieminen, who Sharks fans despised dearly during the team’s playoff run because of his tenacious play and ability to get under opposing players skin, couldn’t be happier to join the Sharks.
“I’ve been playing here a lot over the years,” said Nieminen. “I’ve always had a good time in this building. I had a good feeling about this. The style of living here, the hockey here, the Shark Tank, it’s all great. The whole atmosphere is exciting.”
Nieminen, a member of the silver medal-winning Team Finland in the 2006 Winter Olympics, joins fellow Finnish goaltender Vesa Toskala on a team he’s always respected.
“Of course seeing my buddy there (Toskala) in net tonight is great. We’ve walked a long path together. Some people say that we’ve walked a little bit too long,” laughed Nieminen. “But it’s good to play with a guy who you grew up with, 4,000 miles away. We grew up together, we went to school together, we played soccer together. He used to live in the next town over, but that was only a mile or so away. It’s a real thrill.”
Toskala, who will be back in net tonight, will be happy to have his old pal in the lineup with him.
“Where we’re from, there’s always been two teams and we’ve always been playing against each other,” said Toskala. “We grew to be good friends and it’s nice to be on the same team now.”
The left winger comes to San Jose after playing in 48 games with the Rangers (five goals, 12 assists). Still, being traded was bit of a surprise for the Tampere, Finland native.
“Any time you get traded, it’s a bit of a shock,” Nieminen added. “It’s my sixth team now. I didn’t hear right away where I was going. It’s a long five seconds when you don’t know where it will be, but when I heard the San Jose Sharks, I was thrilled. I’m looking forward to playing tonight and having a solid playoff push.”
Nieminen has been one of those guys a playoff potential team likes to have. In 2000-01, he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 23 games for Colorado in their Stanley Cup Championship run. In 2003-04, he had 55 penalty minutes in 24 postseason games as the Calgary Flames went to the Stanley Cup Finals.
How can Nieminen help the Sharks? No one likes playing against an agitator and pest like him. Nieminen will get the opponents off their game.
So instead of having to worry about that gritty winger who nobody likes to play against, the Sharks can be fortunate that that same guy is now a part of their team and looking to return to the Stanley Cup Finals.