'All smiles all the time': Jets' journey to Finland the stuff of dreams

The smiles won't stop as dreams come true for everyone from Jets star winger Patrik Laine to superfan Crystal Lambertson in hockey-mad Finland this week.

Winnipeggers join team in Helsinki to share love of Jets with their Finnish fans

Winnipeg Jet Patrik Laine, right, and Aleksander Barkov, captain of the Florida Panthers, share a meal in Helsinki as they prepare for games Thursday and Friday. (Winnipeg Jets/Facebook)

The smiles won't stop as dreams come true for everyone from Winnipeg Jets star winger Patrik Laine to superfan Crystal Lambertson in hockey-mad Finland this week.

"I'm pumped," Delsie Lambertson said as she prepared to go through security at the Winnipeg airport with her daughter, Crystal, who bought her gift-of-a-lifetime tickets to the Winnipeg-Florida NHL games in Helsinki this week.

"Me and Crystal made great big posters: 'We flew 6,397 miles to get here.'"

Crystal Lambertson, left, gets ready to fly to Finland with her mom, Delsie Lambertson, on Tuesday. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The Winnipeg Jets, with Finnish right-winger Laine, and the Florida Panthers, captained by Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov, are playing games at 1 p.m. CT on Thursday and Friday in Helsinki, Finland's capital. There's a seven-hour time difference between Helsinki and Winnipeg.

The games are part of the seventh annual NHL Global Series, which sees NHL teams travel outside North America for a few games each year.

The games and even the practices sold out quickly in a country known for its love affair with the NHL and the Jets, where past greats including Teemu Selanne, who was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017, made their names in North America. 

Jets superfan Crystal Lambertson got on the internet as soon as tickets went on sale at 1 a.m. and snapped up a pair for the first game, but the second game was sold out by the time she got to it.

"I was just on Kijiji every day trying to find some and ended up finding a guy in Winnipeg that had bought extra tickets for his friend [who] couldn't go," Lambertson said.

She decided to take her mom with her. Her Jets season-ticket-holding brother couldn't get time off work to go with them.

"I thought she was crazy," said Delsie Lambertson, who's looking forward to seeing the excitement of Finnish fans. "I think it'll be like the whiteout here in Winnipeg."

Laine has been walking on a cloud since the Jets arrived in Finland, flying out after their loss in Toronto on Saturday.

"Patty's all smiles all the time," fellow right-winger Blake Wheeler said, after saying he was "partial" to Laine over the Panthers' Barkov.

Laine said he was "tired … and excited" to be in his home country.

"I've been waiting for this since I heard we were coming to play here last year," he told journalists at a news conference in Finland.

Patrik Laine answers questions from Finnish journalists in Helsinki:

He and Barkov are good friends (they're both from Tampere, Finland) and have spent some time together since they arrived, and Laine's curious about how the Finnish fans will react to them.

"It's going to be interesting to see who has more guys cheering for them," he told reporters. "We have passionate fans in Finland, so I think they'll be pretty loud and cheering both of us for sure, but hopefully more for the Jets."

And that smile? Well, he's playing out his childhood dream in front of Finnish kids who remind him of watching Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks play in Finland in 2011.

"It was awesome as a kid to go watch Florida play against my hometown team, and now being able to be one of those guys who comes here and kind of inspire the kids here. … It's an honour."

Winnipeggers join Jets in Helsinki

4 years ago
Duration 2:23
Some very devoted fans are making the trip overseas to see the Winnipeg Jets take on the Florida Panthers.

More from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Pekka Jalonen in Finland and Marjorie Dowhos


Lara Schroeder

Copy editor

Lara Schroeder is an online copy editor for CBC Manitoba who dabbles in writing and radio. She started her career as a reporter at small-town community newspapers, but her English degree and habits nurtured by her English teacher dad and grammatically meticulous mom steered her toward editing. Her many jobs have included editing at the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Toronto Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press.