The press box in Manchester has seen plenty of interesting names over the course of this season. Among them was Duane Sutter, brother of Kings’ coach Darryl, who was there to scout for the Edmonton Oilers. Recently retired player – and now scout for the Columbus Blue Jackets – Blake Geoffrion also took in a few games at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Over the weekend though, Hall of Fame winger and former Los Angeles King Jari Kurri was in attendance for the Monarchs’ game against the Providence Bruins. Prior to the action on the ice, MayorsManor correspondent Andy Tonge caught up with him to collect his thoughts on the Kings’ first Stanley Cup, plus his roles as general manager of Finland’s Olympic team and Jokerit of the Finnish Liiga hockey league….
On watching the Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 2012:
[Laughter] “I wish we could have won that in the early 90′s when we went to the finals, but Montreal beat us, [because] I would have seen how crazy LA would go. But I’m happy for them. They’ve done a great job through all the years that the ownership, you know, built a great team around, so great for them.”
On if he was able to keep up with the team during their Cup run:
“You know, the time change is kind of tough for us still. The games come on early in the morning, so its hard to follow (the games) that way, but we can watch them the next day and keep [up with it] that way. But, generally, no, I wasn’t very closely watching them.”
On if he was surprised to see the Kings win as the eight seed:
“Not today. You know, I think they’ve done a great job building a team and (finding the) right chemistry. You know, they make some trades, make the team stronger, good big (forwards), and good goaltending, which we all know is very important when you go into the playoffs.”
On the differences between the Forum and Staples Center:
“Well, with all new rinks, [they] are so big these days. The atmosphere is definitely not the same as it was before. One was very noisy, and as a player, you felt that everyone was close to you. But today’s rinks are so big that the people are kind of far away, but that’s the way it goes.”
On his experience being the GM for Finland at the recent Sochi Olympics:
“Well, I have been with the national team now [for] 12 years and, you know, this is going to be my last year. You know, I really enjoy [it at] the moment. The Olympics was great for us. It’s really amazing for us, a small country, [that] Olympic games [have been] played five times with NHL players and we’ve been [in the medal round four times]. That’s very important for our hockey. That tells us that we are a good hockey country. We produce good players. We have to play well as a team. It’s a good experience. Sochi was a great tournament. Everyone was outstanding there.”
On if he’ll try and follow Jarmo Kekalainen’s path and work in the front office for an NHL team:
“No, no. Not at the moment, no. Not in the plans. I’m enjoying (being) with Jokerit hockey club in Finland, in Helsinki. We’re going to join the KHL next year, a very big league in Europe. Every effort [is] there at the moment.”
On Jokerit’s move to the KHL:
“It’s a big thing, you know. Hockey is changing. It’s a great chance for us as a hockey club to have a Helsinki (team) and join the KHL [in] a good league. If you play it right, you know, it’s a better level of hockey, and you get a good chance to play good hockey and maybe move from there to (the) NHL. (It’s) a good chance.”
On the potential impact on Finnish hockey with one of its most historic teams leaving:
“The hockey is changing. If we talk about five years from now, what’s going to happen in Europe in hockey life, maybe it’s going to be one big group of hockey. You know, we can play like we play here in NHL, you know, so who knows. But hockey is changing right now.”
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