BRATISLAVA – No other name is chanted as vigorously as Sasu Hovi's at Samsung Arena in Bratislava – Saaaasu! Saaaasu! Saaaasu! The Finn, a 25-year-old Tampere native, is the goalkeeper for Slovan Bratislava on the ice and loved by all Slovaks in the stands. For Sasu, every Finland game at the IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship is a home game. Not something every foreigner here can say.
How did you get involved with inline hockey?
I started with inline when I was 17 years-old and playing in my home town Tampere for Tappara. I was very much into practicing. You may even say I was “crazy” about practicing! To me, inline is perfect summer practice for ice hockey. The two sports compliment each other.
Describe the status of inline hockey in your country.
It has changed status over the past few years but now it seems to be coming back big time. All of us players are hoping to have more teams in the league next season which would automatically increase the number of games. The more players, teams and games there are, the better the level of competition and therefore, the interest.
How would you compare ice hockey to inline hockey?
To a goalie it is very different. It is impossible to move as much as one normally would in ice hockey. It is a static game for a goalkeeper. And because one can’t move so much, being able to read the game is very important! In ice hockey, I always try to involve myself as much as possible in the game, so I need to change my thinking quite a bit when I’m on roller skates.
What is the biggest challenge facing inline hockey in Finland in the future?
Inline needs more professional athletes and therefore I’d say we’ll need to convince ice hockey players to take inline on board as much as we can. This will be a challenge for us who already play the game.
How does it feel like to play in front of your home crowd and to represent your country at the same time?
It feels great! I have a lot of friends in the audience every time we play and that gives me an extra boost to do my best every time I step on to the surface!
How is it to live in Bratislava?
I really like it here! It’s the capital of Slovakia and a beautiful city. For a professional athlete this is almost like heaven – the teams take care of you very well here.