On June 15, 2011, Antti Tyrväinen was signed by the Edmonton Oilers to a two-year contract and we have been very lucky to watch him play in Oklahoma City this season. Tyrväinen recorded his first assist on October 15th vs. the Texas Stars, and after his return from injury he scored his first AHL goal on December 31st vs. the San Antonio Rampage. This was quickly followed by his second goal the next day on January 1st vs. the Houston Aeros. Following his return from injury in mid December, Tyrväinen is now much more confident and more aggressive on the ice – reminding us of that tough, Lahti Pelican player we saw in videos from last season.
Since a number of our OKC Barons players are European, it was very interesting talking to Antti about his experiences living and working here in North America. As someone who has firsthand experience living in a foreign country for a long period, I know how difficult it can be. It takes time to feel comfortable. Time to settle in and become acquainted with the language, and everything else that seems foreign. On top of the day-to-day differences, European hockey players also face a different type of hockey in North American and this all takes time to absorb. Patience is the key, and with Tyrväinen we are seeing it pay off!
Antti has a great sense of humor and if you have the opportunity, talk to him! And – if you are able – discover the TRUE story of that Zamboni video! Even if he doesn’t reveal the truth about the video, you will have great fun talking to him and sharing a laugh or two.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Antti Tyrväinen for participating in this interview, and also, thanks to Neal Livingston and Martin Lundén for brainstorming on a few of the more interesting hockey questions. Thanks also to Steven Christy for allowing the use of his photos, and to Josh Evans for arranging the OKC Barons interviews.
- Antti Tyrvainen: No. 14
- Position: Left Wing
- Born: 04/03/1989
- Height: 5-10
- Weight: 200
- Origin: Seinäjoki, Finland
Interview with Antti Tyrväinen — January 26, 2012.
PT: You grew up in Seinäjoki, Finland. Is that where you were born?
Tyrväinen: I was born there and we moved away when I was about 6 years old to Lahti where I played last year. I guess I could say that Lahti is my hometown.
PT: Why hockey? What caught your interest about hockey?
Tyrväinen: I was playing soccer and ice hockey and when I was about 15 I had to decide which one I wanted to play and I decided hockey because, maybe, because I like to play hard. You can play hard and the game is more intensive and I like it more – I love it.
PT: How long have you been playing – from what age?
Tyrväinen: I started when I was 4 or 5, so 17 years, 18 years.
PT: Did your father play hockey, or are any of your family active in hockey in some way?
Tyrväinen: He played in juniors but he played soccer in Finland in the highest league there. He was a soccer player there.
PT: Did you grow up watching hockey?
Tyrväinen: Yes, we watched a lot of soccer and ice hockey all the time, almost every day.
PT: Do you have a favorite team?
Tyrväinen: I think I just watched it all. When I was playing in Juniors, my favorite team was my hometown team the Pelicans. But anymore I don’t have a favorite team.
PT: What about favorite players? Did you like any particular players when you were younger?
Tyrväinen: I think one Finnish player, Jarkko Ruutu. He played many seasons here and many games. And his other brother, Tuomo Ruutu. They play hard, sometimes going inside other guys heads. I like those guys.
PT: What hobbies do you have – other than hockey?
Tyrväinen: The biggest thing is hanging with my girlfriend. She is important for me. Of course, I like listening to music. I love music. Sometimes, reading books on road trips.
PT: Your girlfriend is now here with you?
Tyrväinen: She’s here now and it’s very good for me. I have company and don’t have to be alone. The first two or three months when I came here it was so hard for me, I was alone in a new country, a new language, and my language wasn’t so good. But when she came it was so much better.
PT: How would you describe yourself – what kind of person are you?
Tyrväinen: Happy and I like to tell jokes. Smiling a lot. Just relaxing and not stressing it.
PT: What is the one thing about you that would surprise people the most?
Tyrväinen: I like to cook!
PT: What do you like to cook?
Tyrväinen: My favorite is meatballs and mashed potatoes. It is very good. I’m going to do it today.
PT: Do you have a hockey nickname? – I have seen “Trance” – what is that?
Tyrväinen: [laughing] Yes, someone in my hometown called me that name because I was listening to Trance music. My nickname in Finland is hard to say here, but I had a few nicknames. Here they just use my last name, but sometimes it is so wrong I’m just laughing. It’s fun to hear it when they say my name. But it’s good! I like it! [laughing] It is something different, and funny.
PT & NL: You played in Finland for the Lahti Pelicans in the SM-liiga for over 2 seasons – playing 89 games, with 22 goals, 12 assists and a whopping 271 penalty minutes. Tell us about those penalty minutes.
Tyrväinen: I think it is different in Finland. If you hit there hard, the referees always give you 5 plus 20. Here if you get a minor, it is 2 plus 10, or something like that, and in Finland, it is 5 plus 20.
PT: How have you adjusted your play for the North American game?
Tyrväinen: First when I came here it was hard, hard to get inside the game, but it is going better and better all the time. Here it is smaller rinks than in Finland so it is different, but it is going better and better.
PT: Yes, you are looking more comfortable on the ice now that you have returned from your injury.
Tyrväinen: After my injury it is going very well, and I’m happy. Before my injury I was struggling a lot. When I first came here I was struggling a lot and then I broke my arm. But after my injury it is going very well.
PT: In the Finnish league, playing for the Pelicans, you were well-known for your toughness – your hits, aggressive play, that agitator role with more than just an edge to your play. You are not a huge guy – you are 5’ 10”, 200 lbs — but you certainly make up for it in your play! Tell us about that.
Tyrväinen: I think it comes from when I was young. My dad was telling me you always have to play with a good attitude. You have to be the best player. Keep everything you have on the ice.
PT & ML: How are you translating that toughness – your particular aggressive, agitator style of play – from the SM-Liiga to the AHL – and can you also bring that to the NHL level?
Tyrväinen: Of course, that’s why they signed me. I’m going to play my own game and be aggressive and get under the guys. It is just my style of play. I’m not going to stop that.
PT: Some have compared your style of play to Jarkko Ruutu – do you think this is a fair assessment?
Tyrväinen: Hmmmm … I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe. But I think I have to learn more and more all the time. I’m just a young guy. Every day is a new day for me.
PT: Earlier in the season here you seemed to have toned down your aggressive play here in the AHL – Why is that?
Tyrväinen: I don’t know. I think maybe one thing was that mentally I was all alone here. I was missing home so much all the time. It was so hard for me. I had always been in my home town, playing there so all of my buddies were there, I had no one here. And my language wasn’t so good. I think that was one of the reasons why my game wasn’t so good. But it is going better and better now.
PT: How do you describe yourself as a hockey player? You are a Forward, you play Left Wing – but tell us more.
Tyrväinen: I like to hit, hit hard, so I definitely fight. Some goals, passing, just be good in the defensive zone and of course, the offensive zone. But I think my role is just the forward line guy, always hitting and good defense, and a goal sometimes. That is my role.
PT: You were injured in the November 5th Abbotsford game –your arm was broken. Please tell us what happened.
Tyrväinen: It was on a breakaway – I hit one of their guys and on the same shift I got a breakaway, the guy came from behind and took a close swing at my wrist, so I broke my wrist. I was six – seven weeks out.
PT & NL: At this point [January 26th] you have played 23 games with the Barons –we have to clarify that you were out for more than a month due to injuries – however, in 23 games you have scored 2 goals and had 5 assists, you are a plus 5, had 29 shots on goal, and have only 19 penalty minutes. What’s your impression of your season so far – halfway through? How would you grade yourself at this point?
Tyrväinen: Like I said, first when I came here it was so hard, but after my injury it is going better and better. I just want to play my own game, and when we go to the playoffs, it is going to be my best game there for the team. It is going up and up all the time.
PT: There is a fantastic Pelican team video where you skate around the rink and charge into a Zamboni – moving it backwards a good distance! — Oilers and Barons fans love this video of you! Tell us about it – was the Zamboni moving forward when you hit it? Or was it stationary? Or is this an illusion?
Tyrväinen: I’m not going to tell! It’s a secret! [laughing] You have to think about it yourself. It’s a secret! [laughing] Fake or truth. It was fun to do it. So much fun! I enjoyed it so much!
PT: Who is the guy yelling, and what is he saying?
Tyrväinen: He was my last year coach, Pasi Nurminen and he played in the NHL as a goalie with the Atlanta Thrashers. He was yelling if you don’t hit it harder I’m going to show you how it’s done – he’s going to hit it himself.
PT: Who has most influenced you in the game of hockey — anyone, player, parent, coach?
Tyrväinen: I think the biggest influence is my parents – they have been pushing me all the time, telling me to keep playing, have a good attitude, if you don’t want to play, you don’t have to, but you always have to have a big heart when you are playing. I think they are the biggest thing in my hockey career, but my coaches are also a big influence. The Barons are now the biggest influence on my career.
PT: Do you have any favorite traditions, habits or superstitions – either before or during games?
Tyrväinen: One thing I do is during warm-ups the last puck that I shoot has to go inside the goal. That’s the one thing.
PT: What is your best hockey memory so far?
Tyrväinen: I think my best hockey memory is when we won a gold medal in A Juniors and I was like, 16 or 17. It was the best thing. I was the youngest guy on the team and we won the gold. It was so amazing. I think that was the biggest thing. And of course last year when I was on the national team in Europe in the tournaments and I was one of the team in Russia so that was a big thing for me.
Maybe also my first SM-liiga goal in Finland. The highest league there. That is my best memory.
PT: Who is the toughest competitor in practice?
Tyrväinen: I say both goalies [Yann Danis and David LeNeveu]. Because I always want to make a goal and they are always making good saves. It’s hard.
PT: Who is most likely to play jokes on his teammates?
Tyrväinen: Tanner House. He’s a fun guy.
PT: What is the best prank or joke so far?
Tyrväinen: Yesterday someone put Vaseline on Josh Green’s sunglasses. I don’t know who it was, but it was fun. [laughing]
PT: What has been the most difficult thing about relocating to Oklahoma? Is this your first time to the United States?
Tyrväinen: Yes, this is my first time here. I’ve been to Canada before.
We live downtown [in OKC], with Teemu Hartikainen in the same building. In Finland in downtown you would have shops, grocery shops, malls, everything, but here downtown there is nothing [like that]. We don’t have a car here and the mall is quite far away to a grocery store so I think that is the biggest thing for us. Now it is going well. I know the other guys on our team and I can borrow a car and go to the grocery store and mall. I think that has been the biggest thing. Of course, I’m missing home a lot – my parents and friends.
PT: Has it been easier having a few fellow countrymen from Finland here in OKC? On and off, Teemu Hartikainen and Lennart Petrell.
Tyrväinen: Yes, that was so good when I came here last year. Teemu arrived the week after me and we found an apartment together. He was helping me a lot, so that was a big help to me. He knew the place and it was very good.
PT: Will any family members be able to join you here in Oklahoma, to watch you play?
Tyrväinen: I don’t know if my parents will visit yet. I don’t know yet, but I told them they have to come when I get called up.
PT: Have you discovered anything about Oklahoma that has surprised you?
Tyrväinen: There are so many lakes in Finland, with water all around you. It is very different here. I’m used to having lakes everywhere. It is a big difference from Finland.
PT: What do you and your girlfriend enjoy the most about Oklahoma?
Tyrväinen: We think that people here in Oklahoma are very positive and hospitable. And it’s nice to go everywhere because people are so nice and smiling all to time.
PT: How do you and the team feel about playing hockey here in Oklahoma? Oklahoma is a very football focused region.
Tyrväinen: I hope there are more crowds every night. It is fun to play if you have a full rink but the Barons have been here two years and I hope it is growing. People should come out and watch our games. Now especially, we are leading so it is a big thing!
Previous OKC Barons Interviews:
- Kirill Tulupov — OKC Barons (December 7, 2011)
- Philippe Cornet — OKC Barons (December 27, 2011)
- Andrew Lord — OKC Barons (January 30, 2012)
- Dylan Yeo — OKC Barons (March 5, 2012)
Links to related articles:
- Jonathan Willis’s article Edmonton Oilers Prospects: #23 Antti Tyrvainen in the Edmonton Journal, August 6, 2012.