There is a lack of Finnish things on the Edmonton Oilers these days. In fact there was a lack of Finnish things on the Oklahoma City Barons roster since the departure of Teemu Hartikainen. The grand five years that the Barons have been in existence they have managed to position seven Baltic Sea lovers in the lineup, and seven has always been God’s perfect number. Toni Rajala, Antti Tyrvainen, Teemu Hartikainen, and to a lesser extent Lennart Petrell, Niko Hovinen, and Frans Tuohimaa have given opponents Helsinki Hell and caused a frenzied hot flash to Barons fans far and wide. The swoon-worthy-ness of Finnish hockey players has always been a tiny obsession of mine, and it only grows as the days go by.
This year the Oklahoma City Barons have introduced their latest Finnish Phenom and his name is Iiro, Iiro the Hero.
There is a “clutch” mentality built up in the skillset of players from the Nordic Country – luck, strength, tenacity, good genes, angry/kind glances – and they are heralded on the ice for their triumphant skating and hard-edged ferocity. Iiro Pakarinen is poised to be no different.
Around mid-June when the Oilers heralded his two-way contract, I immediately went to the comparison to Hartikainen, my favorite Baron to date. Now with three N. American games under his belt (five with preseason), he has emerged as a legitimate winger threat to one day crack the Edmonton Oilers.
Iiro Pakarinen is a forward, wide-shouldered and gruff, but boy does he have skill. If you thought Hartikainen had skating problems, Pakarinen clearly doesn’t. He has a thick shot, is highly energized to buzz the net, and has the ability to know exactly where to stand in front of opposing goaltenders. This season he already has two goals, an assist, and is one of only three players in the positives in terms of plus/minus (which means nothing, but you already knew that). His defensive game is probably my favorite talking point, however. He is the definition of “defensive responsibility”, and is eager to quickly pump his legs the other direction to hornswoggle a forward or two. This might be the one thing that sets Iiro apart from previous Finns, and certainly from Teemu Hartikainen. Better player? To be triumphantly stated at a later date, but I think we are on to something.
His name is Iiro, he
could be is a hero, thus we have given him the name Iiro the Hero. Not only that, but he has a nice knack for scoring when you need to the most. I like players that find another gear when their team is in dire straits. This could be huge for Iiro the Hero as he attempts to make a NHL roster on a full-time basis.
Like the Cult of Hartikainen (a term coined by the folks at Copper & Blue), the nickname Iiro the Hero brings with it a fictional mystique that crosses over the glass and into our hearts (or is that just me). Iiro is a player easy to love, easy to cheer, and easy to see landing in a good/decent/well-managed NHL spot.
Quick question. If these were actual shirts, would you buy one? Details coming soon…
In the meantime, cheer on Iiro the Hero. Read my thoughts on him at the time of his signing here.