Hiirikoski wants to be better
by Andrew Podnieks|25 AUG 2021
Jenni Hiirikoski has appeared in more games at the Women's World championship than any other player.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
As soon as Jenni Hiirikoski played her first shift against the U.S. the other night, she became the all-time games-played leader at the Women’s Worlds with 70, surpassing former teammate Karoliina Rantamaki. 

And after the game, tributes from the hockey world poured in through Twitter, from Finns and opponents alike.

Said 23-year-old teammate Ronja Savolainen: “So proud of you and so honoured to have you by my side every day. Thank you for everything! You are the best!”

And Julie Chu: “What an incredible player... Congrats on setting a high standard every year and every time you step on the ice! Lots of great hockey still ahead!”

Tessa Bonhomme: “Congrats to another legend in the women’s game!”

Cassie Campbell-Pascall: “Congrats to captain Jenni Hiirikoski on her accomplishment. Incredible player.”

Meghan Duggan: “Unbelievable competitor and legend in our sport. Congrats, Jenni!

Although a career record like this is a time to look back, it is for Hiirikoski a time also to look ahead. She is not nostalgic (yet!) so much as she is ambitious, and her thoughts of the past are good to her only in the context of the future.

How do you see your record in the context of your career? You started out as a teenager and learned from the older players, and now you are one of those older players who have younger players looking up to you.
As a hockey player, and as an athlete, you’re never quite satisfied. There’s always something you feel you can improve, that you can do better and learn. And learn from your coaches and teammates, even if they are younger. You always want to learn more and be better. I think you can learn from everyone. We now have some young girls on the team, but they’re talented, and it’s fun to play with them.

How have you managed to stay healthy year after year?
I really love that part of being an athlete. I like to train a lot all year round, at the rink and at home. I think that’s one of the main reasons I’ve had a long career and continue. I like to practise. I like to take care of my body. Obviously, there are times when you need to learn to listen to your body.

Was it always hockey for you, or are there other sports you enjoy?
I played soccer and did track and field up until I was 17 or 18. I enjoy playing all sports but also to watch and learn from other athletes. There isn’t one sport that I use to train a lot. I play some tennis, and sometimes I’ll train at a cross-fit gym, so you have flexibility to learn from cross-fit.
Jenni Hiirikoski - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship
Jenni Hiirikoski is so many things. She's an inspiration to many players. She leads by example. She wants to be the best, and will never stop working. Learn more about Finland's captain.
FIN 25 AUG 2021
Who do you enjoy watching?
At the Olympics, I enjoyed watching a lot of sports that you don’t normally watch all the time. It’s nice to see how good they are and how focused and strong in their sport. But Allyson Felix inspired me a lot. She now has 11 Olympic medals. We got a medal from boxing, from Mira Potkonen. She’s 40 years old and is a super-hero mom for everyone in Finland when she got her second bronze medal at the Olympics and ended her career in that way.
(Ed. Note: Potkonen won a bronze in 2016 in the lightweight category, Finland’s only medal of the entire Games, and in 2021 won bronze again, one of only two medals for Finland and the oldest medallist in the history of boxing at the Olympics.)

What are the differences between today’s game and when you first started?
The game is so much faster than it was when I first started. All the players are in really good shape and the skill level is higher. I think everyone now has a better understanding of the game, and our program has developed many more skilled players than in 2005.

How important is it from the European standpoint for the PWHPA to get a true pro league going?
Very important. A pro league is what the players deserve and need a place to play and be professional. I really hope they can solve the problems so there will be a women’s professional league where hopefully the European players can also join in the future.

And if such a league got going, would you be interested in moving to North America and playing in it?
Absolutely, but let’s see how old I am then! It would be a dream come true to play with all the best players in the world from all the other nations.

When you think ahead after retirement, would you like to stay involved in the game?
I really hope that I can be part of hockey, or sport in general after playing, but we need to see when that happens. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy this part of life being a player and enjoy the game and compete every day and try to make myself better.

Do you look at the Women’s Worlds in the context of the Olympics, or strictly on its own for the next couple of weeks?
In the big picture, the Olympics is part of the short year we have in such a strange time, but we have to focus on what we do here every day and go step by step towards the Olympic Games.