Last week, we gave readers a chance to submit questions for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to pass them on to the big blueliner and after a few serious thoughts, as well as a few chuckles, the Finn was nice enough to answer most of what was asked.
Pitkanen currently leads all Hurricanes defenseman in scoring with 11 points, (sixth on the team), and is tied with Jamie McBain for a blueline best plus/minus (+4). Last year he led the entire league in average time on ice and is currently 19th this season. For the first time in his career, he is on the NHL All Star ballot this year.
After the jump, what you wanted to know about Joni Pitkanen:
1. How does having teammates that are fellow countrymen affect your comfort level on and off the ice?
It's very nice because you can speak Finnish sometimes and sometimes talk about home. I have known Jussi a really long time. Tuomo and I played on the Finnish National Team. Yes, it helps to make everyone more comfortable I think.
1a. With a new contract coming up this summer, do you think this might be a factor in your decision?
No, I don't know anything about that. We have a lot of games to think about and that's all I am focused on now. The next game Wednesday is against Washington. That is what I am thinking about now. I never look too much to the future.
2. What do you enjoy doing, either as a hobby or to relax, when you are not playing hockey? In Raleigh?
Around here there is great nature in the Raleigh area and it's very beautiful. I like to spend time outdoors and enjoy my time outside as much as I can. You don't really have much free time, you have games every other day, so I don't really have time for many other hobbies. Sometimes, I also like to just go home and relax.
3. One reader asked about the size stick you use, it seems shorter than normal for a person your height? Is that true? Have you tried to use a longer stick?
No, I almost have always used this size stick. I tried different sizes a long time ago. It's individual preference and this size is best for me.
4. Last season your pass up the middle to Jussi on the powerplay worked very well. Has the defense taken that away so far this season?
Yes, (laughing), I think they know that play by now. They scout this league pretty good. You can try that play once in a while and it's good, but you play teams so many times and after awhile, they learn to know what to look for or what the other team will try. Maybe we will try it again soon. (laughs more)
5. How do you feel about being placed on the ASG ballot?
It's very good! It's the first time for me, so it feels good. (he nods)
6. What is your favorite thing about living in Raleigh?
The outdoors. It is very beautiful here. I like the trees and the city is very nice. The people are nice too.
7. Do you prefer longer time on the ice, or would you welcome less time? At what point does it become an issue?
I like to skate more time then less time. (smiles) It depends from game to game, sometimes 30 minutes is okay, but sometimes if there is a lot of skating 27 or 28 might be too much.
8. Did your father make it for the Father's weekend event? How is your dog doing? Do you consider Raleigh home?
No he did not make it, but my family visited the following week. He just missed it! They saw the two games last week against Ottawa and Nashville.
My dog was here last year too. She is doing good. She likes it here fine! Raleigh is like my home away from home.
9. How do you deal with the highs and lows of playing professional hockey?
You never get too high or too low. You play so many games, If you have one good game, the next day it doesn't matter. You just start the next game and it doesn't matter what you did yesterday. The more games you play, you learn that. Like when you're younger, you might get too excited. But then you have a bad game, and you get depressed. The best thing to do is when the game is over, you forget what was good and what was bad and go on to the next game.
10. What is your best memory of being a Hurricane? and your worst?
There are a lot of good memories playing here, it's a lot of fun to play here. But the best was two years ago in the playoffs. Those two game 7 wins, those were the best. Those were great memories.
The worst? Last year's losing streak was tough. That was not fun.
11. How was your experience playing this fall in your home country? Did you have many friends and family attend?
That was a great experience. I don't think many players get the opportunity to do that. Me, Tuomo, and Jussi were very lucky. Everything went very good and it was great to see so many Canes fans there too. And we got four points so, it was all good. (smiles)
Oh yeah, lots of family and people from my home town came.
12. What is your favorite thing about living in the states? What do you miss the most from home?
What I miss the most is Finnish bread. And Finnish candies too.
I think what I like the most about the U.S. is that there are so many different cultures and people from different countries. Also, there are so many things to do, and different people to experience.
13. What is the highlight or most proud moment of your NHL career?
I think when I first came here to play in the U.S. When you are young and playing in Finland, you feel like it is pretty much a long shot to play in the NHL. There really are not many players here from Finland. Maybe one or two a year make it from there. I think that just to get a contract and get to play here, I am very proud of that and to be one of the few to represent Finland.
14. What is on your Ipod, or your favorite music?
I like all kinds of music. Old songs and new ones too. I listen to everything.
15. What is your favorite beer or drink?
Finland has better beers than USA. (laughing) Beers are more like light beers here. Finland has much stronger and better.
16. What is your favorite NHL city to visit and your least favorite?
New York is a nice place to go. (thinking) I don't think I have a least favorite.
Many thanks to Joni for taking the time and for opening up for the fans.