Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine: ‘I’m afraid of pucks’

Photograph by KC Armstrong

Patrik Laine

Age: 18 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 201 lb.
Hardware: 2016 World Championships MVP; 2016 SM Liiga champion and playoff MVP

Why did you cut your hair?
It’s a tradition after the last game of the season. I grow it during the season and cut it after the last game.

It must be difficult to say goodbye to those locks.
I think it’s more difficult for the barber. For me, it’s hard to look in the mirror when you don’t have hair. And it’s hard to wash your hair because I don’t have any, so it’s kind of weird. But it doesn’t take so much work. It’s easier.

What maintenance did it require?
I used my mom’s and sister’s products once in a while. It was hard. I had to brush it and do the kinds of things that girls do. [Laughs.] It wasn’t so nice. But of course it was worth it. I wanted that hair. I had to do what’s necessary.

Would you describe it as a mullet?
I don’t know what that means.

Business at the front, party at the back.
Oh, OK. It was not a mullet. It was long everywhere, forward and back.

Do you have any nicknames?
Back home they call me Patsyuk. It’s like Datsyuk, with a P.

That’s a good one. How would you describe yourself off the ice?
In my opinion I’m funny, but I don’t know what everybody else says—maybe sometimes funny. And the kind of guy who if he decides to do something, he will do it. And the kind of person who wants to win and who never quits. That’s me.

Are your parents athletic?
My mom used to be a cross-country skier when she was younger, and my dad has always played hockey, but not at the pro level.

Do you remember ever being bad at hockey, when you were little?
No, I think I was always good.

You used to shoot at Coke cans, right?
Oh yeah. My father used to put Coke cans in the corners. It was nice to have targets in the goal, so it was easier to practise. When I got older, every shot hit the can. They had to be changed all the time.

Your idol growing up was Alex Ovechkin. Why not a Finn?
I started to watch him and his team and I haven’t stopped yet.

After he hit you at the World Championship, you said you’d never wash your jersey again. What will it be like to play against him regularly?
I think it will be tougher. I’ll try to hit him next season.

Good plan. It must have been an incredible feeling to be named the 2016 World Championships MVP at a tournament full of NHLers.
Yeah, it was. It was a nice way to end the season, and it was amazing to grab that award in front of those NHL players. I never thought about that before I got it. I was pretty surprised. I’m still surprised.

After you won, were you thinking you should just retire?
[Laughs.] Maybe not yet.

You’ve had quite the season. Can you put it into words?
I think one word is “amazing.” Everybody knows that, though.

Did you expect your draft year to go this well?
No. I just wanted to play the whole season and make it to the under-20s team. I didn’t have any expectations.

When did you feel like your game reached another level?
During the end of our season back home. I was playing well and getting points and goals, and of course those pro-leagues [Liiga] playoffs—I got the MVP award and we won the championship. I think then I realized I’ve been playing pretty well.

Was it a change in skill or confidence?
The confidence is the most important thing. When you get ice time, you can play all the time, and when you get success, it’s just easier. When the other guys trust you and the coach is trusting you, it’s easier to get success.

Did you ever consider switching from wing to centre?
No, I’d have to defend more if I’m centre. That’s a joke. [Laughs.] I haven’t really ever thought about it. I’ve always been a winger. I might be good at it, but I’ve never tried so I don’t know.

Not even when you were little?
I was a goalie. [Until] maybe [age] 12. I was a better goalie.

Why did you switch?
My dad told me to.

Do you want to be a goalie now?
No, not anymore. I’m afraid of pucks. When the other guys started to shoot so hard, I was afraid.

It’s probably good your dad convinced you to switch.
Yeah, I’m grateful to him about that decision.

What do you need from the centreman you play with next season?
Good hockey sense and the ability to pass the puck, and when the chance for a goal comes, he will score. Maybe not every time, but pretty often.

One Finnish reporter called your shot “not from this world.” Do you agree?
No, it’s from this world. I’m here, so…

You have a knack for scoring big goals late in the game.
I have so much luck. And I’ve been on the ice when there’s that much [time] left and I’ve had a couple of good chances to score and I’ve made it so.

Do you watch your own highlights?
Sometimes. If I haven’t scored in over five games, then I start watching those highlights. I see I have scored before, I have to score now, too.

What do you know about Winnipeg?
Winter’s cold, but I’m used to it in Finland, so it doesn’t bother me. I’ve heard that it’s not a big city, but it’s a nice one, and I’ve heard they have the best home crowd in the NHL. And they have many younger players there.

It’s also very windy there. Is it windy in your hometown of Tampere?
It’s just wet, cold and dark.

That sounds lovely.
It’s pretty nice during the winters.

What do you do for fun when you’re not playing hockey?
I play PlayStation. And just be with friends. I like to go swimming during the winter.

Outside?
Yeah. It’s refreshing and it’s fun. And we go to the sauna after that. That’s a nice day.

I hear you’re an NFL fan. What team do you cheer for?
I like the Patriots and [Tom] Brady.

You like people who are the best.
Yeah, of course.

Anything else you want to add?
I don’t think so. I’m pretty hungry, so I should go get food.