If you watch Patrik Laine play hockey, it’s evident the Winnipeg Jets star has fun plying his trade. If you read his Tuesday post in The Players’ Tribune, it’s evident the 19-year-old Finnish winger has fun doing just about anything.
Whether it’s going into great detail about his love of the video game Call of Duty and strong Wi-Fi connections, or the patchy beard he’s growing that his teammates think makes him look Amish, the NHL sophomore let his personality shine through in his first written endeavour with the outlet.
The overarching theme of the blog post, aptly titled “Winnipeg Is Good,” revolved around his affinity for his teammates and the city he now calls home.
“I think the best thing to happen to me last year was falling in love with Winnipeg,” Laine wrote. “I mean, I heard some guys talking bad about the city and that Winnipeg was not a good place. What do they know? I love Winnipeg. This is my home. These are my people now. I play for them. It’s a great, great city. Everyone who lives here really cares about one another, that’s what stands out to me. We are one group, all of us. Everybody is your neighbor.”
Laine was selected second overall by the Jets in 2016 without knowing much about the city, the team or its players.
“When I first came here from Finland, the Jets helped me a lot,” Laine said. “I owe the team a lot for putting me in a good spot for my rookie season. I never felt too much pressure. I was able to be me.”
Laine led the Jets with 36 goals in his first year and finished second in Calder voting yet his rookie campaign left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Last year was tough,” he explained. “Everyone was saying I should be happy with how I played and stuff. But, like, I don’t care about that. I want to win. That’s is the only reason I play hockey—or even (video games). I want to beat you. We didn’t do that enough last year.”
This year is a different story.
The Jets are currently tied for first in the Central Division and would appear a lock to make the playoffs.
“Now we’re winning, and I’m loving it and so is the city,” he added.
Winnipeg hasn’t won a playoff game since being relocated from Atlanta. The team qualified for the post-season in 2015 but was swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round.
Laine, who’s currently tied for the league lead in power-play goals, said he doesn’t think hockey fans pay enough attention to the Jets—something he was guilty of before he ventured to North America.
“So, before I got drafted, I would play the NHL video games a lot. I knew a few teams pretty well. But Winnipeg was…really bad. Maybe like an 80 overall. I never wanted to be the Jets, nobody did,” Laine said. “So I didn’t know any of their players. When I came to camp with the team in 2016, and I met the guys for the first time, I didn’t know anything about who they were. I had to make mental notes.”
One player Laine became enamoured with once he saw him up close and personal on the ice was captain Blake Wheeler.
“He blew me away,” Laine said. “He was so good. I thought, O.K., this guy is the superstar of the team. He is the big deal. I assumed he was like the biggest star in the NHL. But when we started going on the road and people weren’t really talking about him. Even in Winnipeg he doesn’t get that much attention. I don’t get it. He’s as good as anyone in the league.”
Winnipeg, for a variety of reasons, has been labelled as a market unlikely to attract high-profile free agents but Laine doesn’t think that should be the case.
“I think maybe I know why they don’t like coming here. Maybe guys are too cold? Maybe this is a hard place to play because of our fans? I’ve only been to each NHL building a few times, but I know for sure—our rink is the loudest. Our fans give us so much confidence.”
With a core of young stars like Laine, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck to build around, more hockey fans and players might also start realizing: “Winnipeg is good.”