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You asked, Hagman answered

Finland assistant captain answered fans’ questions

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Hartwall Arena Helsinki  Finland

Future coach? Probably not, says Niklas Hagman, as he answered that and other fans' questions. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images

HELSINKI – Fifteen years ago, Niklas Hagman scored one of the most important goals in his career when he was credited with the game winning goal in the 1998 World Junior Championship – at Hartwall Areena, the venue for this year’s World Championship.

About that goal - and more - below as IIHF.com met with Hagman, and posed him the questions you, the fans, had sent us.

You’re the assistant captain of Team Finland. What does an assistant captain do on your team? Do you have some special responsibilities? Who chose the captains?
Juha Jaakkola
Tampere, Finland

There are no special responsibilities, but the three captains and the coaches do talk about all kinds of things. If there are changes to the schedule, for example. We talk regularly – when something comes up. I don't have to do anything I wouldn't normally do, I’m just me.
Coaches named the captains.

Why did you look so surprised after scoring your goal against Austria? You just stood and stared at something. Didn’t you believe it went in?
Samu Kauppinen, Oulu, Finland (via Twitter)
Sanna-Mari, Finland (via Twitter)
Pessi Termonen, Porvoo, Finland (via Facebook)

I got a great pass from Hytönen, and I took a really hard shot, but I didn’t see where the puck went, and for some reason I didn’t feel it, either. My first thought was, "did I just miss an empty net?” So I thought it was best not to celebrate in case I had just sent the puck to the stands. Even when Marko Anttila came to congratulate me, I wasn’t sure if it had gone in. And then it was just too late to celebrate more.

What do you think about Finland's second NHL player in team , Mikael Granlund, and his arrival in team? Is it good thing, or is it possible that adding him may confuse the team or lines?
Jere Törski Törrönen, Finland (via Facebook)

He’s a good player, and has played well in the national team. He’s well-liked, too, so it’s naturally a great thing for us to add such a player. That said, it’s too bad that somebody, in this case Miika Lahti, has to leave the team after having been with us for weeks.
Granlund also gives us more alternatives with lines. The first line has been on fire, but maybe adding him will help us get more scoring from all our lines.
Other players do think of the lines, too, and try to think how adding a player will affect them, but it’s not the first thing that crossed my mind. Besides, there’s nothing we players can do, anyway.

Which opposing country really gets you fired up?
Walter Gustafsson, Finland

Sweden. We have some bitter memories of the games against them, like the Turin Olympic final.
While I wasn’t on the team, I was really happy to see Finland beat Sweden in the 2011 World Championship. It’s a love-hate relationship.
Now, all the Swedes I've played with on different teams are great guys. But it’s fun to play against them.
I played with Staffan Kronwall and I know some of the things that can throw him off his game, and I’m not keeping them as a secret, I tell the guys on our team what they should do - and I’m sure he tells their players what ticks me off.

How does it feel to get to play for the Finnish national team?
Benjamin Lönnbohm, Finland
Virpi Lampinen, Finland (via Facebook)
Sauli Kudjoi, Finland

It is a great honour to represent one’s country. Every time I’ve had a chance and have been able to play, I’ve said yes. I had a concussion in 2011 so I couldn’t join the team then. Of course, there have been occasions where I’ve had to decline an invitation, like when our children have just been born, or we couldn’t fly with a new-born or something.

What did you think of Finland beating Russia on May 9, the most important day for them? That was a historic win. Does that give you enough strength and confidence to win the title again?
Indrek Hiibus, Finland (via Facebook)

I think their loss to France was a bigger deal, because they know that we can beat them every once in a while. I’m sure it was a big deal for them, on such a great day, but it’s still just a game, nothing more.
It wasn’t that they didn’t want to give their best, but sometimes the other team is just better.

Who is the most uncomfortable player you have ever played against and who was your most talented teammate?
Markus Nisius, Trier, Germany

[Hagman thought about this long and hard]
I’ll say Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks. I played in Calgary and Anaheim so we played against them a lot. He’s a really good player, but he also likes to play physical, and he talks constantly, and then sometimes he falls a little too easily. So he’s a good package of a lot of irritating things.
Teemu [Selänne], of course, is up there. And Pavel Bure was another unbelievable player I got to play with.  

Playing for 10 different teams in 4 different professional leagues, is there a team or league that you would have been happy to stay with your entire career?
Ronald J. Gentile, Helsinki, Finland

Dallas was a great spot, great fans, and we played well. Anaheim was another, the family liked it, then Calgary … there are lots of places where we would have liked to have stayed longer, but when you get the call, you just have to go.
What's an absolute no-go for you your fans could do? e.g. talking to you in a bar when you're there with friends.
Gunda Dorothea

People don’t actually come up to me that much, and they’re mostly nice. The worst thing is when people throw things on to the ice, or try to grab players during the games.

Are you into Finnish culture, such as [the composer] Sibelius, or [the painter] Akseli Gallen-Kallela, or the Kalevala [the national epic]? If not, how do you bring Finland with you to other countries?
Kelly Virtanen
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

I can’t say that I have read Kalevala, maybe in school, or a Donald Duck version. Sibelius? We’ve played Sibelius to our babies, but can’t say that I’m an expert. I listen to Finnish pop, rock, or rap on our road trips.
And it’s nice to get Finnish candy, or Finnish bread and go to the sauna. Little things like that.

Who is the biggest hockey fan you've ever played with - like, say, the player who knows the most hockey trivia, or collects the most jerseys, or who always wants to watch games on TV in his spare time?
Jason Adams
Calgary, Canada

I don’t watch hockey on my free time, myself. But, Jussi Jokinen, for example, knows the stats of all the leagues. I just want to get some distance to hockey every once in a while.

You’ve had a long career, and seen hockey in many countries, and met different kinds of players. Who’s the most inspiring player you’ve met? Other inspiring people you've met through hockey?
Liisa Halonen, Finland

Most inspiring player is Jere Lehtinen. He was such a good player, and took such good care of himself, always preparing the best possible way. So I’ll try to always give my best.
Of course, in the NHL, players often visit children’s hospitals, and we see different kinds of life stories. It’s nice to see that the parents get some energy from our visits, too.
Which is your most beautiful goal?
Miika Laaksonen, Finland (via Facebook)

Oh, that’s a tough one. There are goals that may not look fancy to the stands, but maybe I’ve done something that I don’t normally do, or I know is not an easy thing to do. Those stick to my mind.
But in Toronto, I scored a goal in a game against Florida after I had first collided with the referee, then got hit in the head by a puck our own defenseman shot – and then I got the puck in the corner, deked a couple of players, and scored a goal.
I didn’t celebrate that one too much, either, I was still fuming so I just wanted to get to the bench.
(Here’s the goal.)

You have stopped making a lot of "dangles"... You're too skilled not to. Is there any particular reason why you've stopped playing a more individual game?
Påske Ugle, Trondheim, Norway (via Facebook)

[Laughs] Maybe. It’s probably true. Maybe I’ve changed my style. Those dangles look good but often you end up losing the puck, and when you’re a third-liner in the NHL, the coaches don’t appreciate that so much.
I probably should try to do that a little more, but it’s also a matter of confidence. Hopefully it’ll come.

You left the NHL last season to play for a team still mourning from the disaster. What was your experience in Yaroslavl and what were the feelings of the fans during that season?
Adam Peleshaty, Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada

Are you more afraid of flying after the Lokomotiv crash?
Aku Pulkkinen, Finland (via Facebook)

How has the crash affected the organization?
Markus Suhonen, Savonlinna, Finland (via Twitter)

It shows there every day, they’ve done a really good job with everything around it. The team went to the church before the season started, and we've always visited graveyards when we were in cities where players who were on that plane came from.
Of course I always think about flying, but I don't have a phobia.
What are your hobbies?
Pekka Poukka, Tampere, Finland (via Facebook)

Tennis, spending time at our summer place. I have a tennis court at our summer place and I’m really looking forward to playing a lot of tennis there.
Who is your favorite referee in the NHL?
Pyry Johnson, Malmö, Sweden (via Facebook)

I don’t remember their names!
During your days in the NHL, what was your favourite and least favourite North American rink to play in?
Aaron Pohjanen, Ilmajoki, Finland (via Facebook)

Montreal. We had some great games there, the music was good, and playing in Montreal as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs was always great.
Least favourite? Long Island. The arena is so old.

What would you say are the biggest differences between hockey in the NHL and in the KHL?
Steven Ellis, Oakville, Ontario (Canada)
Alex Wong, Canada (via Facebook)

Rink size. That makes the game more physical.

How easy it is to adapt to the KHL? Do you speak Russian, or have you learned any?
Outi Iivonen, Finland

I know about six words. Everybody took me in well, and most guys on the team speak English. It wasn’t out of disrespect that I didn’t learn the language, I just never had the time to get into it.

Your favourite food in Russia?
Mika Rinne, Espoo, Finland (via Facebook)

Chicken Bouillon soup.
I remember your grandfather Nils who was into athletics while your father was into hockey. Did you ever consider athletics?
Olli Mustonen, Finland (via Twitter)

Not really, my dad was a great runner, but I’ve never been good at that. It’s always been hockey for me.

Your father was a famous player as well. Do you have children and do they play hockey?
Steve Jackson

My son is just six so he likes to skate, but he’s not a player. We’ll see.

You scored the game-winning goal in the 1998 World Juniors at the Hartwall Areena. Do you ever think about that when you’re in the arena now? What do you remember about the goal? Do you remember which goal you scored in?
Liisa Laine
Turku, Finland

I think about it, sure, it’s still the biggest goal I’ve scored in my career. I didn’t even shoot the puck in, it went in off my pants. I remember it’s the end that’s now our end.

Would you still like to play in the Finnish SM-liiga, or are you looking to get back to the NHL? Would you like to become a coach when you retire from playing?
Aleksi Vitikainen, Finland (via Twitter)

What are you going to do when you retire?
Juuso Vainio, Finland (via Twitter)

Of course I’d love to play in the NHL, but let’s see if anybody’s interested. Realistically, it’s more likely that I return to SM-liiga. Coaching? Probably not.
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