NHL veteran Jarkko Ruutu, 36, waits patiently for a new team
Hard-tackling forward Jarkko Ruutu is the hottest name among the Finnish ice hockey players still waiting to be signed for the upcoming season.
Last season Ruutu was seen playing for Anaheim in the NHL, but failed to have his contract extended with the Ducks and so far he has not landed a deal with any other North American team, either.
Ruutu celebrated his 36th birthday on the ice in Myyrmäki, and later in the gym. He is training hard for the upcoming season, even though he does not know yet where he will be plying his trade.
“I have kept myself in shape. I am not worried about the situation. I could have signed a contract whenever, had I wanted to”, Ruutu said in Myyrmäki.
IFK of Helsinki was interested in Ruutu. Jokerit of Helsinki has also expressed its interest towards the forward, as have many other teams in the domestic SM-Liiga.
Even in the NHL there is interest towards the Finnish veteran.
Ruutu has received offers from the NHL, “but not very satisfactory ones”.
“It is still an option”, Ruutu says referring to the NHL, “But the team is not going to be Anaheim. That is clear.”
When it comes to choosing his team, Ruutu appears measured.
“A city and place where I would feel at home, a good team with prospects of success, and a suitable compensation package”, Ruutu says and receives quiet grunts and snorts from Sami Lepistö of Chicago Blackhawks and Toni Lydman of Anaheim Ducks, also doing some pre-season training in Myyrmäki.
“It will be a comprehensive package, and these are its components”, Ruutu continues.
Ruutu had a successful ten-year run with the NHL, but he is still not ready to put on his skates for peanuts.
“The salary is a sign of recognition. How else would you measure one’s worth?” Ruutu asks.
The Finnish NHL players’ summer training on ice is a tradition that has continued for 30 years.
At first only Jari Kurri and Ilkka Sinisalo appeared in the arena in Myyrmäki.
”I came here at the beginning of August. At that time there were five players practicing here”, Ruutu says about this season. By the beginning of this week the number of players had increased to around twenty.
”When the quality of the players is high, it benefits everybody”, Ruutu explains.
During his IFH years in the late 1990s Ruutu was known as a training junkie. He still lives through training.
“That is why my career has been so long”, he says.
Finnish teams are busy playing practice games and European Trophy games during the summer season. Ruutu misses out on the practice games side.
“It takes a couple of games to get back into the swing of things, but with practice games one does not win a single game in the league”, the NHL veteran explains.
On the ice in Myyrmäki, a substantial number of unemployed quality players were shaking off the cobwebs and getting a feel of the game again.
Former Jokerit player Esa Pirnes is looking for a team while rehabilitating himself after a series of operations.
Ari Vallin won the Finnish Championship with IFK in the spring, and is now looking for a team to play with in Sweden, perhaps in Russia.
Other ice hockey pros in the practice arena included defenders Antti Hulkkonen and Juha Gustavsson and forwards Erkki Rajamäki, Toni Mäkiaho, and Olavi Vauhkonen.
The lone wolves knocking the puck around in Myyrmäki would build the framework for a pretty useful league team.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish NHL star Jarkko Ruutu enthuses over Vancouver as Olympic host (10.2.2010)
Jarkko Ruutu (Wikipedia)