Few players see their dream through and follow it no matter the struggles. When one becomes a success, it’s always a good story.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Ville Leino is one of those stories.
Leino has fought his way to the brightest stage in hockey and has made a name for himself.
It is still to be decided whether or not the Flyers resign Leino long term but whether they do or not, he will be a success in the NHL.
Thanks to the Flyers organization and Mr. Leino, I had the privilege of asking him about the topics that the people of Philly want to know about.
Donald Wood: How do you like Philly so far?
Ville Leino: I like Philly. It’s a good hockey town, it’s underappreciated. It’s not a bad town at all.
DW: You had an amazing career in Finland, including leading HPK in scoring in the 2005-2006 season when HPK won their first SM-liiga championship, breaking the single season points record for Jokerit, and winning the Lasse Oksanen trophy for the best player during the regular season in the SM-liiga. What’s your legacy there and how popular are you in Finland?
VL: Now that I play internationally, Finland doesn’t have many NHL players and I guess I am pretty well known. Hockey is pretty big there so every now and again I get recognized.
DW: How did you get the call that Detroit wanted you?
VL: I was asked to come play for the NHL but salary cap issues forced me to the minors for a bit and finally I got a chance to get called up.
DW: Was it disheartening to be sent down to the minors and play so little games with the Red Wings? Are there any hard feelings?
VL: Obviously it wasn’t fun to not play there and I didn’t really enjoy playing in the minors. I came here to play in the NHL and every time I got the chance, I had to work right away or I was sent back. It was a tough time but it all has worked out.
DW: After injuries drew you into the lineup during the playoffs, you proceeded to tear it up. You had 19 points in 21 games and tied the rookie record for most points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs held by Dino Ciccarelli. Where did that come from and how good did it feel?
VL: It was definitely a good feeling. It was desperation and I wanted to show that I deserved more than to be a healthy scratch and I belong in the league. It really felt good and I finally got my chance and made it. It was a big moment.
DW: Last year, the team just squeezed into the playoffs while this year, the team is in a way better position looking towards the playoffs. With the run you had last year, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having less pressure on you?
VL: Pressure is a good thing.It makes you work harder and push a little harder. It’s definitely good to have pressure.
DW: Well in that case, do you worry then that the team might start taking games lightly without the pressure of having to force your way in the playoffs?
VL: I don’t think so. Last year we got lucky with getting the eighth place team in the Boston Bruins and we had home ice advantage. It’s always better to have the home advantage and the more you have the consistency during the regular season it will carry into the playoffs. You will have more energy when you need to battle every minute in the playoffs.
DW: Speaking of the playoffs, how good did it feel to be a part of the amazing series against Boston where the team came back from being down 3-0 in the series to win? Because it felt great as a fan!
VL: It was unbelievable. When we were down three games to one in Boston and I remember thinking to myself ‘this sucks’. It felt terrible to go out after all of the work so we just didn’t quit. It was amazing.
DW: How good did it feel to show your skills on the highest level and prove you belonged in the NHL?
VL: I always enjoyed playing hockey. Every situation you’re in builds you and you have to prove to yourself and your team that you can play at the most difficult spots against the best in the world. It was important for me.
DW: You, Scott Hartnell, and Danny Briere have really built up a rapport from the playoffs and carrying into this season. What do you credit with your success with them what does each bring to the table that makes the combination work?
VL: We all think the same way about hockey. Danny B[Briere] is our goal scorer and makes plays too, Hartsy [Scott Hartnell] goes hard to the net and wins the battles to give us the puck and scores from in front of the net. I’m trying to make plays and hold onto the puck. We just have to work hard every day and when we work hard we get pucks to the net and get chances. Hard work is the key to our success.
DW: With the added depth on defense, all the talent on offense, and solid play in net, what are the expectations for the team this year?
VL: There is only one goal for us. We just want to take one more step further than last year. That’s all that’s in your head. Every day you have to work hard and find that consistency during the regular season and it will follow into the playoffs.
DW: Do you want to stay in Philadelphia and are the Flyers trying to keep you around?
VL: From what I understand, they want to keep me here. I like it here and it’s a good fit; I want to stay. Hopefully, hopefully everything will work out.
DW: With Giroux and Carter getting extensions, is there anything in the works for an extension for you?
VL: I think we’re working on it but I think it’s going to be a process. I don’t know how the cap issues are going to affect it and I think it’s going to be a process.
DW: Thanks for taking time to talk to me and good luck for this year and the future.
VL: Thank you, anytime.
Special Thanks: The Philadelphia Flyers and Mr. Leino for their cooperation through this process. Thanks again.