Monday, July 28, 2008

Interview with Nashville G Pekka Rinne

TheNeilShow: One On One with Nashville Goaltender Pekka Rinne

Monday, July 28 2008

In my debut interview for, I sit down with Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne to talk some hockey.

Neil Bristow - You made your NHL debut Dec.15th 2005. Can you share with us a little of what that was like? What was going through your mind at that time?

Pekka Rinne - It was something that I had always been dreaming of. At that time both Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason were hurt and I got the call. Everything happened pretty fast and I didn`t have time to stress about the game, we won the game and it was just amazing experience I'll remember for rest of my life.

Neil Bristow -You played with Karpat Oulu (FNL)before coming over to North America. Is playing goalie over here different than in Finland? If so, why? And did you have to make adjustments to your game at all?

Pekka Rinne - The game is little different in Finland mostly because of the bigger ice surface.Players have more time to use their skills. In North America game is more north-south style of play. That`s why I had to change my game more aggressive to challenge the shooter and cut down the angles. I really like the North American style of game.

Neil Bristow - What are some of your goals this year coming in to Camp in Nashville?

Pekka Rinne - My goal is to have a good summer and strong training camp and make the team. Also prove that I can play in NHL and that I belong there.

Neil Bristow - What is your biggest moment so far in your career and why?

Pekka Rinne - When I played in Finland we won two championships in a row 2004 and 2005. It was pretty special cause I played for my hometown team in front of my family and friends. Other great moment was when we made it to Calder Cup finals with Milwaukee on 2006. We had a great team but unfortunately we came short and Hershey won the Cup.

Neil Bristow - With players like Jaromir Jagr going over to play in the Kontinental league in Russia for the same money they would make in the NHL, the Russianleague has stated in the past, that they will pay NHL-like salaries for players in their league. Do you see this becoming a realistic problem for the NHL, losing great European talent to Russia?

Pekka Rinne - Maybe in the future, but I don't think it's a problem right now. NHL is such a respected league around the world that every kid in Europe wants to play in NHL someday.

Neil Bristow -Who did you look up to growing up, goaltender wise?

Pekka Rinne - My cousin used to play goalie growing up and he had a big influence on me. He is the biggest reason why I started to play goalie. In NHL I used watch Patrick Roy and John Vanbiesbrouck play when growing up.

Neil Bristow - Who is one player that you have faced before, that you wouldn't want coming in on you in a shootout? And why?

Pekka Rinne -I haven't been involved in single one shootout in NHL, but in AHL I think Darren Haydar is a player that I don`t like to face too many times. I played with him in Milwaukee '06-'07 and you would think that I know his moves, but he's just so smart and skilled player that he reads goalies and forces them to make the first move.

Neil Bristow - The NHL is once again starting the season over in Europe this year with the Lightning and Rangers battling in Prague and the Sens and Pens in Stockholm. What are your thoughts on NHL teams starting a long season over there with all the travel and scheduling? Are you in favour of that?

Pekka Rinne - As a European and knowing European hockey fans I think it's great thing that they are able to see and watch their favorite players and teams. Also it`s a good way to showcase the whole NHL and it`s unbelieveble players. And also for players I think it`s nice to see some new countries and cities. Obviously the schedule is hard but there's more gain than harm, teams playing in Europe.

Neil Bristow - What NHL city that you haven’t visited yet are you most looking forward to playing in? And why?

Pekka Rinne - Beside Nashville I haven`t visited too many NHL cities, but I really like all Canadian NHL cities because hockey is just so big in Canada. I have to say it`s a privilege to play for Nashville organization we have such a great fans and hockey is getting bigger in South.

Neil Bristow - NHL has thrown around the idea of maybe shrinking the NHL nets or maybe altering goaltender’s equipment. What are your thoughts and ideas on that topic?

Pekka Rinne - It's a topic that everybody has different opinion. I think that if people decide to change the size of the nets, would be a mistake. All the records and games played before would lose their meaning and new era of hockey would begin. But I'm fine with altering goalie gear as long as it's safe for goalies.

Neil Bristow - Have you had any embarrassing on- ice moments in your career so far? If so, could you share a story with our readers?

Pekka Rinne - There's couple moments that I try to forget. This one happened when playing in Finland. We played against Ilves Tampere and were leading 3-2, there was only 3 seconds left in the game and I started almost celebrating when somebody just threw the puck to net and it went in off my skate and at the same time buzzer went off. We ended up losing the game in overtime. It was the final game of the regular season and we would have finished first if we would have won that game. I wasn't happy tell you that much. Luckily we were able to win the Finnish Championship that year so I could laugh about it with the guys afterwards.

Neil Bristow - If you had the power to make changes in the NHL game, would you change anything? If so what would you change?

Pekka Rinne - I think NHL have done a great job with some changes in the game last few years. It has made the game faster and more interesting for the fans and also for the players. I don't have any new suggestions, I just try to work on things that I can control. Thanks!!

Until next time, I’m Neil Bristow for

Neil Bristow
HPT Radio Correspondent

Thursday, July 3, 2008

D Anton Babchuk signs with Carolina after one-year hiatus

Just as it has in the past, the opening of the NHL free agency period produced a flurry of big signings. On the day, over $300 million were committed to player contracts. In a move that flew under the radar early in the day, one of those many millions was committed to defenseman Anton Babchuk by the Carolina Hurricanes.

His signing ($1 million for 1 year) marks his return to the organization with which he won a Stanley Cup in 2006. Though the team won a championship in his first season in Carolina, his relationship with the Hurricanes turned a little ugly the following season. To begin the 2006-07 season, the Hurricanes assigned Babchuk to their AHL affiliate in Albany. When he refused to report, he was suspended for violating team rules.

Babchuk ended up playing 52 games with the Hurricanes that season, and after eventually accepting a demotion, played an additional 9 games in the AHL. That season Babchuk posted a career-high 12 assists, 14 points, and 30 penalty minutes.
Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League was his destination for the 2007-08 season. Babchuk, a 1st round pick of the Blackhawks in 2002, had a strong season for Omsk. He amassed 9 goals and 15 assists while playing in all 57 regular season games. However, as an elite athlete, Babchuk still had a burning desire to return to the NHL, to play in the best league in the world.

The signing of the 6’5”, 215 lb. Babchuk is just one move the Hurricanes have taken to re-tool their often criticized defense for the 2008-09 season. With the loss of Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley to free agency, Carolina has also brought in Josef Melichar, returning to the NHL from time in Europe, and Joni Pitkanen, acquired from the Oilers in a trade for Erik Cole. The Hurricanes will look to Babchuk to be a steadying force on the blueline, as well as to contribute offensively by jump-starting the attack and manning the point on the power play.