SOCHI, Russia – Olli Jokinen has ridden a bike to a hockey game before. It was just a long time before he pulled on the Finnish sweater at the Sochi Olympics.
“(I was) probably 15, when I was playing back in my hometown,” Jokinen said after an 8-4 victory over Austria on Thursday. “My parents didn’t have a car so I would ride a bicycle every time. Obviously, when it was minus-20 or minus-25 you took the bus.”
The weather in Sochi right now has rendered all of the buses useless. It was brilliantly sunny and 16 C on Thursday morning, so the Finnish players decided to bike from the athletes’ village to their opening game at the Olympic tournament. That resulted in a long queue of blue bicycles lined up outside the team’s dressing room at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
These truly feel like the small-town Olympics. With six venues all clustered together beside the athletes village, it is remarkably easy to get around at these Games. The trip from Finland’s accommodations to the arena only took about seven minutes.
“It’s probably the fastest way to come here anyways,” said Jokinen, who is competing at his fourth Games.
“It’s been probably the best setup out of all the Olympics I’ve been at,” he added. “Everything’s close. It definitely doesn’t feel like you’re in Russia.”
In addition to the freedom offered by the bicycle, the Finns don’t mind the little aerobic warmup it provides as well. They are actually using them to get around everywhere they go here because their rooms are located a long way from the dining hall.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask estimates that the players would be walking about 10 kilometres a day if not for their adopted method of transportation. It is a familiar pattern for him because he likes to bike from his apartment to TD Garden when the weather allows for it in Boston.
“I live so close to downtown,” said Rask. “Boston’s a great city to bike in.”
That isn’t something you can say about Winnipeg, where Jokinen now lives and plays for the Jets. However, the 35-year-old centre might still be convinced to bring his bike routine back to North America after this tournament wraps up.
“You never know – if we win every game here I might start doing that,” said Jokinen.