The Columbus Blue Jackets will face the Colorado Avalanche in Finland this November as part of the 2022 NHL Global Series.
The games will occur at Nokia Arena in Tampere, Finland, on Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5.
bound!— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) April 21, 2022
The Blue Jackets will play two games in Tampere, Finland, next year, taking on the Colorado Avalanche on Nov 4-5.
The teams were scheduled to play in Finland in 2020 before the pandemic hit. #CBJ
The NHL originally scheduled the series for 2020 but it was postponed due to COVID. The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks will begin the season against one another in Prague on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8.
The Blue Jackets have two Finns currently on their roster including Patrik Laine and Joonas Korpisalo. General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen is from Finland and the fact that he's the first European NHL GM is a fact that did not go unnoticed back home. When the Blue Jackets hired Kekalainen in 2013, the country rejoiced that one of their own was the first to hold such a prestigious role in leading a team.
"People know who he is, sure," former NHLer Kimmo Timonen said in a 2019 article by Aaron Portzline for The Athletic. "People in Finland, absolutely. People in the NHL, of course, too. But I don’t think enough people in the hockey world realize just how big of a boss he is."
Laine expressed joy in going back to his hometown with the Blue Jackets for the two-game series against Colorado this fall.
"It was exciting to hear the news," Laine said. "Hopefully I'm still here (with the Blue Jackets). That's the first step but it should be a lot of fun."
Laine is an RFA at season's end and it's the Blue Jackets' priority to figure out the next contract for the star Finn. In confidently assuming he will be part of the team and trip, how excited is he excited to show off his hometown?
"I think we're only going to be there for two days, and otherwise in Helsinki so there's not much time," Laine said. "(Korpisalo) is here as well, he'll probably handle the first five days in Helsinki and then I'll kind of jump in even though we probably don't have too much time to kill, but yeah, just happy to hear the news."
Laine is among a few experienced Blue Jackets, including Jack Roslovic, who have participated in NHL games in Helsinki, Finland before as Laine, Roslovic, and the Winnipeg Jets split two games with the Florida Panthers there in 2018. Laine scored four goals across the series, including a hat trick in the first game, which was a 4-2 win.
"It was awesome for me (playing in Finland)," Laine said. "I can't speak on behalf of anyone else. I know (Roslovic) hated it but it'll be a great opportunity for all of us."
Nokia Arena, the host of the upcoming showdown between the Blue Jackets and Avalanche, is brand new, having just opened its doors this past December, and Laine has heard great things.
The new Nokia Arena, which will host #CBJ vs. Colorado, in Tampere will host the World Championships this year. It seats 13,455 for hockey and looks quite nice.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) April 21, 2022
"A lot of my buddies have been there watching games and apparently it's pretty sick," Laine said. "It'll be fun to go play over there and play in that arena for the first time."
As Laine has previously played an NHL game back home in Finland, it's always a treat for him on a personal level to be able to partake in the event in front of the locals.
"Last time, it was top three in the games I've played in the NHL," Laine said. "Now especially going to my hometown, that's pretty cool. For Europeans, it's pretty rare that we get that opportunity so it's pretty sweet."
The Avalanche have two Finns on their roster in Mikko Rantanen and Arrturi Lehkonen.
Dating back to 1997, the NHL has had 34 regular-season games played in Europe. The Blue Jackets previously played overseas when they played the Sharks in 2010 as part of the NHL Premiere Series in Stockholm, Sweden to start the season. Both teams traded 3-2 wins. That was part of a record six teams to play games in Europe.
Leading the way with 26 goals this season, and second on the club with 56 points, Laine has missed the past four games due to an upper-body injury. It's uncertain if he'll suit up for the Blue Jackets with three games remaining on the regular-season schedule.