BERNE – Petri Skriko is hanging out in the World Championship media centre at PostFinance Arena, and he's a big Washington Capitals fan. In fact, the onetime Finnish NHL star is thrilled that the Caps knocked off the New York Rangers in Game Seven of their first-round series. Frankly, this seems strange.
It's not so surprising when you find out that Skriko, 47, currently works as a European scout for Washington, and therefore has a vested interest in his employer's success. But for anyone who grew up on Canada's West Coast in the 1980s, Skriko will always be a Vancouver Canuck.
Nicknamed “Streak”, both as a pun on his surname and a reference to his penchant for scoring streaks, the nifty left wing from Lappeenranta had four straight glory years with 30 or more goals for Vancouver between 1985-86 and 1988-89. At his best, he was dazzlingly fun to watch. He logged brief stints with Boston, Winnipeg, and San Jose to round out his NHL career, and spent the remainder of the 1990s with Herning in the Danish League before moving into coaching.
So what prompted his latest career choice?
“I'd been thinking about the scouting business already when I was coaching in Denmark and Finland,” Skriko tells IIHF.com. “It's very difficult to just get involved with it, because a lot of the scouts in Europe stay in their jobs for a long time. They enjoy their work. So there aren't many openings. When the NHL and the IIHF made an agreement [as of 2005] that drafted European players would now have to be signed in two years, the need increased for pro scouts in Europe. At that time, I was in coaching and I talked to Göran Stubb, the NHL director of European scouting, at one of the hockey games. I said, 'If something comes up or you or you hear something, could you please let me know? I'm interested and I'd like to put my name out there.'”
The networking effort paid off, but as Skriko had anticipated, it took time.
“Washington called me a little bit before the World Championship in Latvia in 2006,” he recalls. “They asked me to come and meet their general manager, George McPhee, and their assistant manager and director of pro scouting, Brian McLellan. I flew in and we had a meeting. We talked about it. The next summer, they contacted me again and said they'd like to hire me for European scouting.”
Today, Skriko resides in Helsinki, and he's part of a Washington team of European scouts that also includes Gleb Chistyakov, Vojtech Kucera, and Mats Weiderstal.
“I cover basically all European leagues, Euro Hockey Tour tournaments, World Championships, and so on,” Skriko explains. “My travelling varies. I don't have specific dates or times. If you want to see the players, you have to travel. If you don't want to be away from home and travel and go to hockey games, you can't be a scout. Personally, I enjoy it very much.”
Forty-five minutes before the next game starts, he's poring over statistics and rosters, and flipping through evaluation sheets that he'll use to record data on the players Washington wants covered. Of course, in the competitive world of NHL scouting, the latter falls into the category of top-secret, classified information.
But that doesn't mean you won't find Skriko later on enjoying a drink and a trip down memory lane at the hotel with Goran Stubb, Anders Hedberg, or another friend the hockey world where everyone knows everyone else. The opportunity to reconnect with old comrades and adversaries is one of the greatest attractions of the scouting lifestyle.
“I remember Paul Baxter was coaching a few years ago in Helsinki,” Skriko says. “He was a mean defenceman with the Calgary Falmes. The first time we met, we recalled how it was. I told him: 'I really didn't like to play against Calgary. When you were there, it was going to be hitting and slashing, every night, every game.' We had a good laugh about it. He was a tough guy who didn't give up. We had a mutual respect. When you look back, you always remember the good things in the end.”
And there are plenty of good things on Skriko's hockey resume. In addition to being named the Best Forward at the 1982 World Juniors with 15 points in seven games, the Saipa Lappeenranta product wore the Finnish jersey in three IIHF World Championships (1983, 1985, 1987), two Olympics (1984, 1992), and two Canada Cups (1987, 1991). Medals were harder for Finland to come by in those days, but he still appreciates his experiences.
“For Team Finland, it was a different process than it is now,” Skriko says. “We were not a top team in those days. We were fighting for a spot in fifth, sixth, or seventh. It wasn't as glamorous for us, and it felt more negative than nowadays. We went there to survive instead of winning. It was always a great experience to represent your country, but you would just hope that things went well so that you could come home without being embarrassed. My age group had to be the one that provided the building blocks for future success, what we're having now. We have to be happy with that. That was our role in developing Finnish hockey.”