The world according to Pasi Mustonen
by Lucas Aykroyd|19 JAN 2022
Finnish head coach Pasi Mustonen, seen here at the 2021 Women's Worlds in Calgary, is entering his second and last Olympics in Beijing.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Pasi Mustonen has been a gift both to Finnish women’s hockey and to sports media. The coach of the Finnish national team – heading into his second and final Winter Olympics –  has also never been afraid to court controversy.

Finnish media reports suggest that Mustonen will controversially leave legendary goalie Noora Raty off his Beijing 2022 roster. The 32-year-old Raty, a four-time Olympian, famously backstopped Mustonen’s team to a stunning silver medal at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship on home ice in Espoo but didn’t join the team for the 2021 Women’s Worlds. If it happens, Raty’s exclusion will be a hot topic of conversation in February, depending on where Finland finishes after earning a bronze medal at the 2021 Women’s Worlds with Anni Keisala in net.

Mustonen also masterminded bronze medals at the 2018 Olympics and two other Women’s Worlds (2015, 2017). For Mustonen, after years of coaching men’s hockey everywhere from Karpat Oulu to Skelleftea AIK, it is on the women’s side that his legacy shines most brightly.

In front of the media, the 61-year-old coach is also unafraid to give colourful quotes about gender equality, officiating, or his bold goalie-pulling tactics, among other topics. Who knows what he’ll have to say in Beijing?

For now, here’s a quick look back at some memorable Mustonen quotes from the 2021 Women’s Worlds in Calgary.

On Petra Nieminen, a 2021 tournament all-star team forward whose six goals tied Canada’s Melodie Daoust for the overall lead

She was already two years ago Europe’s best player. Clearly the best European forward in the SDHL. Last year, she suffered a bit of a knee injury. She had an operation in August, so it took a while before she got going, finally becoming a key figure in the Swedish finals. She scored two sudden-death goals and made it possible for Lulea to win the gold medal. So she is a top player. She’s relatively young still. She has definitely the potential to be one of the absolute best players in three or four years. She’s already now a top-10 player, in my opinion.

On captain Jenni Hiirikoski, who became the all-time Women’s Worlds games leader (75)

Jenni has been the front figure of our whole team culture for a long time. Without Jenni’s way of leading the team, we wouldn’t be the team that actually won the Worlds two years ago. I can’t describe her importance to the team and Finnish female hockey. She is absolutely the greatest team athlete I’ve ever been coaching. She is a phenomenon. She is a very special human being. She is a mother, she is a coach, she is a friend. She has everything in the same package. Totally unique.

On the rising Czech Republic, whom Finland defeated in the Women’s Worlds quarter-finals in both 2019 (3-1) and 2021 (1-0)

In my opinion, they were clearly the fourth-best team in Espoo, and they are top-four now in the world. I’ve never seen a better Czech team than the team here.

On building the national team for future success

This team will be ready in three to five years. Nobody knows how quickly, but it took five years last time. We built the “Miracle in Espoo” in five years. Now we’re building a new team. And I’m not saying we can’t fight for the medals. We will be fighting for medals every time we play the top nations.  I’m pretty convinced Finland will surprise one more time sooner or later in the future. It can take two or three or four years. I don’t know when, but it will happen.

On Finland’s young players

I’m actually surprised by some of the players and how well they can already play, as far as the younger ones are concerned. Some of the good examples are Sanni Vanhanen, and, most of all maybe, number 26, Sofianna Sundelin. She has been a great surprise, being able to perform on this level in her first Worlds as well as she’s done.