Patrik Laine looks forward to feasting with family during 1st Christmas in Winnipeg
Jets winger up for Finnish Sports Personality of the Year back home
The most famous teenager in Winnipeg is about to spend his first Christmas in the city.
Jets winger Patrik Laine says he's looking forward to the upcoming five-day holiday break.
"Just [going to] eat and spend time with the family," he said. "I eat a lot — steak and that kind of stuff. I don't like Christmas food."
The 18-year-old was selected second overall in the NHL draft in June and has already made an impression on the ice.
"Everything has been just amazing here," he said. "This is a little bit bigger than [home] and it's way colder here."
Laine said his first season with the Jets has gone better than expected so far, thanks in no small part to the "great locker room of guys" he laces up with several times a week.
"Hanging out with the boys and just playing hockey; that's been the best part."
Instead of heading home to Finland, Laine intends to spend Christmas on the Prairies with his father, sister and mother. His mom now lives in Winnipeg.
Laine's family members aren't the only people from Finland to buy plane tickets to Winnipeg in the lead-up to the holidays.
Finland loves Winnipeg
Finnish journalist Pekka Jalonen was back in Winnipeg for a few days covering Laine on and off the ice.
"He's a really, really big thing in Finland, because people want to know everything he's doing here, how he's doing, how many goals he has, how he's playing, how he enjoys Winnipeg," Jalonen said.
"He's a really, really nice guy and he always has time for somebody who comes from Finland to speak with him here."
Jalonen first spent time in Winnipeg in 1992 covering Teemu (The Finnish Flash) Selanne's early days with the Jets.
His job has taken him all over the place, but there's something about Winnipeg that stands out.
"Winnipeg has a special place in Finnish people's hearts because of Teemu and now Patrik," Jalonen said.
"I have travelled a lot and the nicest people I've met are here in Winnipeg. All the journalists and people I've met here, they are so friendly and nice and they take care of me and try to help me in any way they can."
Laine is up for the Finnish Sports Personality of the Year, an honour that has never gone to a hockey player. The results are expected to be released in early January.
Jalonen looks forward to being sent back to Winnipeg to cover Laine, although he hopes the next visit won't be in the frigid depths of winter.
"It depends on my boss, but I hope it's not in January or February, when it's really cold here."
With files from Marcy Markusa